Cash Bail Reform in Los Angeles Proving Very Difficult to Put into Place


By The Vanguard Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA – It turns out the long awaited cash bail reform in Los Angeles that supposedly took effect Oct. 1 isn’t exactly in place just yet, after a ruling by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge this week.

The judge ruled a court order barring the city and county of LA from using the new system is still in place, meaning the entities cannot begin the long-awaited justice reform, according to a story in Courthouse News.

CN explained that, while the new system “kept cash bail for violent, serious felonies, it replaced pre-arraignment cash bail (essentially the period of time between arrest and arraignment, when the accused makes his or her first court appearance) with a few different outcomes, depending on the offense,” including “immediate release, to an instant referral to a magistrate judge. People arrested while already on parole are also sent to a magistrate for review.” 

But before the new policy took effect, 12 cities in LA County, including Whittier, Covina and Palmdale, filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court aimed at stopping the new bail schedule, arguing it would lead to a “significant increase in criminals released back into the community,” reported CN.

A hearing on the filing is set for Nov. 17.

Courthouse News wrote that at a hearing Monday, “attorneys for the plaintiffs revealed that the LA Court system published an updated version of the bail schedule — dubbed by the courts ‘Pre-Arraignment Release Protocols,’ or PARP.”

The city and county want to dissolve the preliminary injunction blocking pre-arraignment cash bail, the new limited bail system, which they claim is causing confusion among law enforcement, said CN.

Dimitri Portnoi, a lawyer with O’Melveny & Meyers who represents LA County, said his firm has received multiple calls from police officers seeking clarification, noting, “People are confused. And that may result in mistakes. Because we don’t have something cleaner.” 

But the plaintiffs’ attorneys opposed to the new system disagreed, arguing how fragile the new bail system is.  

“We are 23 days into PARP,” said plaintiff’s attorney Taylor Menninger. “There’s a lawsuit challenging the policy. There are still substantive changes being made to PARP. This is not a policy that has cooled and crystallized in such a way that we can rely on it.” 

Courthouse News said the case “stems from the class action Urquidi vs. Los Angeles, filed by a pair of nonprofit public interest law firms last year on behalf of six people who had recently been jailed and couldn’t afford to pay their pre-arraignment bail. The suit argued that it violated the California Constitution by treating arrestees with money differently from arrestees without money. 

“The city and county spent most of the early hearings in the case arguing that they were the wrong defendants and that the plaintiffs ought to be suing the state Legislature or the LA Courts. But Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff rejected those arguments, and has, for the most part, sided with the plaintiffs.”

Monday, Riff denied the motion to dissolve the injunction without prejudice, and, said CN, “Too much is in a state of flux to modify the preliminary injunction today,” said Riff. “What will be in the future? We will see. We will see what happens in Orange County and otherwise.”

CN added, “The bail issue has already crossed over from the courts to the political realm. Last week, during a debate held for challengers of LA County District Attorney George Gascon, candidates brought up zero bail a number of times, using it as a stick to beat Gascon with.”

“One candidate said the new zero bail policy was ‘unlawful,’” wrote Courthouse News, adding another “suggested that prosecutors should start to work around the new policy by filing more conspiracy charges, which may trigger cash bail.”

Yet another candidate, a prosecutor, insisted, “Bail is a constitutional right…If you want to change bail, you have to change the state constitution.” Gascón, he added, “didn’t even show up to contest the bail issue in court.”


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