Lawsuit challenging SAFE-T Act won’t be heard until next month, court records show

Lawsuits by 58 county state’s attorneys challenging the constitutionality of Illinois’ criminal justice reform legislation known as the SAFE-T Act were recently combined into one lawsuit in Kankakee County, but the case won’t be argued until next month, and a decision is not expected until mid-December.

That’s according to updated information from the Kankakee County Circuit Clerk.

The Illinois Supreme Court combined lawsuits filed by more than half of Illinois’ state’s attorneys on October 31 into the suit filed by Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, which was the first to be filed. The state’s attorneys asked the supreme court to make the move.

Gov. JB Pritzker holds a copy of the SAFE-T Act after signing it into law on February 22, 2021. | @govpritzker

Court clerk records show the case will be heard by Kankakee County Chief Judge Thomas Cunnington, a former prosecutor who spent three decades in private practice before being elected to the bench as a Republican.

On Monday, Cunnington scheduled a hearing on the SAFE-T Act suit for the afternoon of December 7, with a written decision to be issued on December 15.

Parts of the SAFE-T Act, including the abolition of cash bail, are scheduled to take effect on January 1. Other parts of the 700-plus page legislation are already active.

While each of the lawsuits was different, three common themes are:

  • The SAFE-T Act addresses a range of issues in violation of the state Constitution, which requires legislation to “be confined to one subject.” In addition to bail reform, the SAFE-T Act requires police to wear cameras, allows for decertification of cops, revises electronic monitoring statutes, and amends the Crime Victims Compensation Act.
  • The elimination of cash bail violates the Illinois Constitution, which says persons “shall be bailable by sufficient sureties.”
  • The SAFE-T Act should be blocked because it was passed in a matter of hours, whereas legislation is supposed to be before the General Assembly for at least three days.

Rowe, the Kankakee County State’s Attorney, said state’s attorneys from Will, Kendall, Vermilion, Sangamon, and McHenry counties were designated to assist his team with the litigation.

Court records show that Michael Kasper, a long-time leading attorney for the state’s Democratic Party, is among the defense lawyers fighting for the law.

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