California Supreme Court to Consider if New Bail Reform Law is Constitutional

As opponents unite to gather signatures for a referendum on Senate Bill 10, a referendum which would effectively halt implementation on the new bill and take it to the voters in 2019, the California Supreme Court is also weighing in on the matter.  In the landmark case which turned the California bail system on its head, IN RE: KENNETH HUMPHREY, the justices have asked both parties to submit briefs by October 24 regarding their understanding of SB10.  There is a debate about the constitutionality of the law that may leave some defendants jailed pretrial without the opportunity to be released.

SB10 relies heavily on risk assessment tools that use algorithms to determine whether a defendant should be eligible for pretrial release.  These tools have come under scrutiny by civil rights groups that question the transparency of the algorithms used to determine the defendant’s fate.  Many wonder whether the data itself is tainted toward discrimination.  Additionally, opponents of the law also question the nearly unfettered discretion that judges have in releasing a defendant or keeping them detained.  Both parties will have the opportunity to explain their understanding of the new law and if it violates the state constitution.  For now, many await the results of the referendum.  Those gathering signatures have a deadline of November 26 to obtain the appropriate number of signatures.


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