The Santa Clarita City Council voted 5-0 to join the city of Whittier in a lawsuit against L.A. County’s judicial system Tuesday, following a closed-session discussion.
Whittier announced the lawsuit Sept. 29, which is aimed at stopping the emergency bail schedule that went into effect Oct. 1.
The city of Whittier was joined by 11 other cities in the filing: Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, city of Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs and Vernon.
And now Santa Clarita is joining the fray.
The vote authorized Jones & Mayer to represent the city in the lawsuit, a law firm that specializes in “serving public entities throughout California,” according to its website.
The attorneys in the firm also represent various municipalities throughout California, similarly to Joe Montes’ contractual representation as city attorney of Santa Clarita through Burke, Williams & Sorensen.
Kim Hall-Barlow, a partner at Jones & Mayer, is leading the litigation on behalf of the cities.
In a news release announcing the suit, Whittier officials have said the large-scale elimination of a cash-bail requirement for crimes with bail amounts less than $50,000 has created a public safety threat, as suspected criminals go out and re-offend numerous times before they get a court date for their crimes under the new system.
Advocates for bail reform have cited evidence from the previous two years of the emergency bail system that they say proves a suspect’s bail amount has little to do with whether the person shows up in court.
Those in favor of Whittier’s lawsuit have said the countywide increases in the numbers of property and violent crimes — both figures have increased by a double-digit percentage each year in 2021 and 2022 — indicate widespread reform of the criminal justice system in L.A. County has failed to yield the intended result.
“There’s just not enough being done for public safety,” Santa Clarita Mayor Jason Gibbs said Wednesday in a phone interview.
He said he was looking forward to discussing the opportunity to join the suit when he had heard about it.
“I think the bigger importance here is … the fact that there are already that many cities who, when they saw that policy go through, they immediately filed a preliminary injunction to try and stop it,” he said.
The cost of the lawsuit is split equally among all the plaintiffs, according to city officials.
The lawsuit is looking at the entire picture with respect to the question of bail, Gibbs added, saying the equity for suspects can’t be the only consideration, and there must be a consideration of flight risk and public safety.
The suit against the L.A. County Superior Court’s Judicial Council, as the result of a motion by Barlow, is now being heard in Orange County by Judge William Caster.
Orange County Superior Court records available online indicate the case has not yet been given a hearing date for Courtroom CX 101 of the Orange County Civil Complex Center.