Our View | Wanted: 1 More Plaintiff vs. Zero Bail

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By The Signal Editorial Board

Let’s all ask ourselves a simple question: 

How’s this “let’s keep as many people out of jail as possible” philosophy working out for society at large?

Smash-and-grabs are notoriously on the rise. Crime in general is up, not down, by double-digit percentages over the past couple of years — despite some minor successes in one specific category or another. Law enforcement officers will tell of their frustration when they arrest someone for a crime, and the perp is back out on the streets again in a matter of hours, often committing the same crime all over again, with zero fear of consequences. 

What do you think of when you think of cities like San Francisco or Chicago in 2023?

Los Angeles?

Does the phrase, “I need to get the hell out of California” regularly cross your mind?

It’s gone from bad to worse, and it’s only getting ready to go to “even worse,” as the Los Angeles County Superior Court system has re-instituted its emergency bail order, which essentially translates to no cash bail for a wide variety of crimes, including felonies with bail amounts listed at $50,000 or less. 

A dozen L.A. County cities are standing up to this latest criminal-friendly order, and have filed a lawsuit challenging the courts’ decision to activate the zero-bail system, which took effect Sunday.

Santa Clarita is not one of those cities.

It should be. 

The Santa Clarita City Council is expected to discuss the matter during its meeting on Tuesday, and we urge the council members to either join the lawsuit as an additional plaintiff or, at a minimum, submit an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit. 

Santa Clarita, after all, has been a leader in championing public safety over the past couple of years. Shortly after we editorialized to sound the alarm about the dangerous policies L.A. County District Attorney George Gascón enacted after he took office in 2020, the city of Santa Clarita became the first of more than 35 cities in L.A. County to issue votes of no confidence in the criminal-friendly DA.

This is no time to take the foot off the gas. Santa Clarita, long known as one of the safest cities in the nation, must remain a leading advocate of public safety. 

The emergency bail order comes as a result of a July ruling by Superior Court Judge Lawrence Riff 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 order, essentially, yields to those defendants at the expense and peril of … well, everyone else.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit challenging the zero-bail order, led by the city of Whittier, succeeded this week in their petition for a change of venue: The case will be transferred to the Orange County Superior Court system, thereby avoiding the inherent conflict of interest in having the L.A. County courts handle the case.

“I would characterize that as essential in the interest of justice,” said attorney 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.” 

The plaintiffs contend — correctly — that the newly installed system will only result in more criminals being allowed to immediately go free, without first having to appear in court.

“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.  

In other words, many felonies will now be like a traffic ticket. Doing 65 in a 55 mph zone? Commit a smash-and-grab robbery? 

They’re both catch-and-release now. Get caught. Get a ticket. Get a court date. Go on your merry way.

Joining Whittier in the suit — so far — are Arcadia, Artesia, Covina, Downey, Glendora, city of Industry, Lakewood, La Verne, Palmdale, Santa Fe Springs and Vernon. 

Santa Clarita Mayor Jason Gibbs said this week that he had “full support” for the plaintiffs’ efforts. We implore the entire City Council to commit to such support on Tuesday, and stand with the plaintiffs in this case who are trying to protect the public from the potentially devastating effects of turning even more criminals back onto the streets without so much as waving hello to a judge.

Far-left liberals want there to be fewer people in jails and prisons.

So do we — just as soon as there are fewer people committing crimes.

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