Cities suing over bail get case moved  

San Fernando Superior Courthouse. Courtesy
San Fernando Superior Courthouse. Courtesy

A group of cities suing the L.A. County Superior Court system seeking to stop the courts from re-implementing the emergency bail system obtained an order Wednesday to move the case to a venue in the Orange County Superior Court system. 

An attorney for the city of Whittier, which is leading the challenge on behalf of a dozen cities, called the ruling “essential” due to the concerns of potential bias that were presented. 

“I would characterize that as essential in the interest of justice,” said Kim Hall Barlow of Jones & Mayer, who represents the plaintiffs in the suit, “because I don’t see how any judge in L.A. County — with respect to them, because I appear a lot in L.A. County — I think it would be difficult for them to handle a challenge like that in an impartial way.” 

More importantly, she added, it’s important that the public perceive the case as being handled impartially. 

Rob Oftring, acting spokesman for the L.A. County Superior Court system, was not immediately available Wednesday afternoon following the ruling. 

A dozen cities upset by the emergency bail order, which essentially eliminates cash-bail requirements for felonies with bail amounts listed at $50,000 or less, are suing to seek an emergency stop to the policy’s Oct. 1 implementation. 

“Under this new (bail) schedule, individuals arrested for a variety of misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies may now be cited in the field and released with a notice to appear in court with no individual assessment of the risk to public safety,” according to a previous statement from the city of Whittier, which is leading the effort on behalf of 12 cities.  

Advocates have said there’s no statistical proof that bail makes a big difference in whether a defendant appears in court. Cities suing to stop Judge Lawrence Riff’s July ruling have noted the number of violent and property crimes have risen countywide by a double-digit percentage in each of the past two years since COVID-19 initially prompted the emergency bail schedule.  

Riff’s ruling came in response to a request for a preliminary injunction from a handful of defendants suing local law enforcement agencies, claiming they served time in jail, two to five days in most cases, because they didn’t have the means and access to avoid pretrial detention.  

The Santa Clarita City Council is expected to discuss the lawsuit at its next meeting. Mayor Jason Gibbs said he had “full support” for the effort when reached for comment about news of the suit. 

Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, city of Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs and Vernon have all joined Whittier in the suit. 

A request for reassignment was sent to Judge William Claster, who handles cases in courtroom CX-101 of Orange County’s Complex Civil Center.  

The assignment was confirmed as received Wednesday afternoon by Claster’s clerk, Gus Hernandez. 
Hall Barlow said Wednesday that the parties would be requesting a court date in their new venue as soon as possible. 

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