Los Angeles County is now almost one month into a Superior Court judge’s order eliminating the use of cash bail for defendants, with a hearing set for next month in Orange County for a lawsuit seeking an emergency injunction to stop the order.
Santa Clarita officials voted in closed session Oct. 10 to authorize the city of Whittier’s attorney, Kim Hall Barlow, to also represent Santa Clarita in a lawsuit seeking to stop an order issued over the summer that suspended L.A. County’s cash-bail system.
The city of Whittier and 11 others filed suit shortly after the order took effect Oct. 1, and since the initial filing, 17 other cities have joined the suit, Hall Barlow confirmed via text Thursday.
The cities who have joined Santa Clarita and the original 12 include: Azusa, La Mirada, Baldwin Park, Beverly Hills, Cerritos, Irwindale, Lancaster, Paramount, Rosemead, San Dimas, Duarte, Santa Monica, West Covina, Manhattan Beach, Norwalk and Torrance.
The case is now being tried in Orange County, after Barlow successfully argued that an L.A. County judge would not be able to make an impartial and unbiased decision about the L.A. County court’s own ruling regarding cash bail. The next hearing is Dec. 1 at the Civil Complex Center in Santa Ana.
According to Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station arrest records obtained by The Signal, of the 114 suspects processed into custody in a nearly two-week period from Oct. 12 to Wednesday at midnight, 14 remained in custody connected to pending charges as of the publication of this story. Out of the other 100 suspects, 28 were held for at least 48 hours due to pending charges and two bonded out.
Those arguing for the elimination of cash bail argue that data from the pandemic, when L.A. County operated under the emergency no-cash bail schedule for more than two years, have said the numbers indicate a bail amount doesn’t significantly impact whether a suspect shows up to court, which bail is intended to guarantee.
“We have long known that money bail does not keep us safe. It undermines fairness and justice, disproportionately harms Black, Latino and poor people, and exacerbates cycles of poverty,” according to a statement from Michelle Parris, director of Vera California, a local initiative of the Vera Institute of Justice. “On any given day, there are more than 6,000 people in our jails — not because they are a danger to the community, but largely because of an inability to pay bail. We can see across this county that this system has not worked for the people of Los Angeles and that our communities deserve a better approach to public safety.”
Those arguing on behalf of the cities contend the elimination of cash bail represents a threat to public safety, as suspects are now being arrested and then committing multiple crimes and being rearrested numerous times before they’re ever being held to account for their initial crimes. Information on the Sheriff’s Department’s Transparency Promise website that reports crime data indicates that there has been a 12.3% increase in overall Part-I crimes reported in 2022 versus 2021. There were double-digit percentage increases for violent and property crimes based on LASD data.
L.A. County Superior Court Presiding Judge Samantha Jessner announced in July the new bail system would take effect in October, making permanent Judge Lawrence Riff’s temporary order in a lawsuit over bail.
Riff initially made the order in May, bringing back the COVID-19-based emergency bail system in response to a lawsuit filed by defendants against local law enforcement agencies, claiming they served time in jail, several days in most cases, because they didn’t have the means to avoid pretrial detention. Riff wrote in his ruling that a money bail schedule that doesn’t take into account one’s ability to pay inherently puts the wealthy at an unfair advantage.
The emergency bail system largely eliminated cash-bail requirements for felonies with bail amounts listed at $50,000 or less but gives law enforcement officers the option of a magistrate review, in which they can request a judge to look at a suspect’s criminal history in determining whether bail would be appropriate.