On Wednesday, a Kankakee County judge ruled that the elimination of cash bail in Illinois’ sweeping criminal justice reform legislation known as the SAFE-T Act is unconstitutional. Cash bail was scheduled to be eliminated statewide as of January 1.
Thomas Cunnington, Chief Judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit, issued his ruling after hearing arguments last week in a case that combined more than 60 lawsuits by county state’s attorneys and sheriffs who opposed the legislation. Cunnington found other aspects of the law challenged in the lawsuits to be constitutional.
In a written statement, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said he intends to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse Cunnington’s decision regarding cash bail.
“The immediate net effect of this ruling is that the pre-trial release provisions and bail reform will not go into effect in the 65 counties that were party to the lawsuit,” Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe said on Facebook. “The other provisions of the Safe-T Act, such as body cameras, training, etc., were upheld.”
Cook County is not participating in the lawsuit and many officials said they expect cash bail to be eliminated here on January 1.
“Judge Cunnington held the Safe-T Act unconstitutional on the basis that it violates the Separation of Powers clause, violates the Victim Rights Act, and unconstitutionally amends Article I Section 9 of the Constitution because the voters were denied their right to vote on such amendments,” Rowe continued. “In his ruling, Judge Cunnington found that ‘had the Legislature wanted to change the provisions in the Constitution regarding eliminating monetary bail…they should have submitted the question on the ballot to the electorate at a general election.'”