With appeals surging 26,806% under cashless bail, Illinois Supreme Court establishes new rules

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

CHICAGO — With the state’s appellate courts drowning in a flood of cases filed by criminal defendants challenging their pretrial detention since the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA) eliminated cash bail in September, the Illinois Supreme Court is making some changes.

The high court said it had to act because the court system, which handled an average of 17 bond-related appeals per year under the cash bail system, is expected to receive 4,557 appeals during the first 12 months of cashless bail. That’s an increase of 26,806%.

As the number of pretrial detention cases surged, the court established a Pretrial Release Appeals Task Force in January to make recommendations for improvement.

The panel, calling the surge in cases “staggering,” returned its recommendations on March 1, and the Supreme Court will implement many of the group’s ideas effective April 15.

Some changes aim to eliminate frivolous appeals, many of which have been filed with little more than check boxes marked on a boilerplate form.

Some appellate cases reviewed by CWBChicago sought judicial review for seemingly minor problems like judges failing to explain fully in writing why they found a defendant unfit for pretrial options other than jail, even when the judge explained their reasoning verbally in court.

The task force concluded that “if an appeal is taken, it must be accomplished in a way that adequately articulates the legal basis for the appeal” rather than “in a rote manner.”

In the future, defendants will first seek a review of their detention in the local county court before it can advance to the appellate level.

The court is also eliminating its own rule that pretrial detention appeals must be filed within 14 days of a defendant’s detention. That rule could motivate many defendants to hurry up and file something just to get their case under review. Defendants can file appeals at any time before trial after April 15.

Defendants will also be limited to one pretrial detention appeal at a time to, as the task force put it, “incentivize strategic thinking by trial counsel about which detention rulings to appeal.”

About Tim Hecke 378 Articles
Tim Hecke is CWBChicago's managing partner. He started his career at KMOX, the legendary news radio station in St. Louis. From there, he moved on to work at stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York City. Tim went on to build syndicated radio news and content services that served every one of America's 100 largest radio markets. He became CWBChicago's managing partner in 2019. His email address is tim@cwbchicago.com