Judicial Council sets zero bail for most misdemeanors

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The California Judicial Council has set bail at zero for most misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, in an effort to reduce jail populations amid the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

The statewide emergency decision came Monday during a teleconference, as the council considered 11 other rules aimed at reducing jail populations and ensuring public safety in the courts and jails. 

“We are at this point truly with no guidance in history, law or precedent,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chair of the council, said via the teleconference. “And to say that there is no playbook is a gross understatement of the situation. Working with our court stakeholders, I’m confident we can preserve the rule of law and protect the rights of victims, the accused, litigants, families and children, and all who seek justice. It’s truly a team effort.”

It followed a similar move by the Los Angeles County, and county District Attorney Jackie Lacey applauded the Judicial Council’s move to reduce bail statewide. 

“I applaud the chief justice and the Judicial Council for adopting a statewide zero bail for people charged with most misdemeanors and low-level felonies,” Lacey said in a prepared statement. “In Los Angeles County, we implemented a zero-bail measure last week that allows us to further reduce the number of people in county jails and courthouses. I appreciate the collaboration among criminal justice leaders in Los Angeles County that has resulted in the rapid deployment of new and innovative approaches as we work to try to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”

Effective immediately, the rules will also suspend judicial foreclosures and the entry of defaults in eviction cases, as well as allow courts to require judicial proceedings and court operations to be conducted remotely. 

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