As we reported previously, on Wednesday, a Kankakee County, Illinois judge ruled that portions of the Illinois “SAFE-T Act” were unconstitutional and thus would remain on hold in 64 of Illinois’ 102 counties when the law was set to take effect Sunday, January 1st. The “SAFE-T Act” is a sweeping criminal justice reform measure that would, among other things, eliminate cash bail.
Judge Thomas Cunnington’s 33-page ruling found that the Act, in part, violated separation of powers principles, as the setting of bail falls within the purview of the courts, rather than the legislature:
Because, as the Illinois Supreme Court has determined, the administration of the justice system is an inherent power of the courts upon which the legislature may not infringe and the setting of bail falls within that administrative power, the appropriateness of bail rests with the authority of the court and may not be determined by legislative fiat. Therefore, the court finds that Public Acts 101- 652 and 102-1104 as they relate only to the pretrial release provisions do violate this separation of powers principle underlying our system of governance by depriving the courts of their inherent authority to administer and control their courtrooms and to set bail. Elrod, supra.
Following Wednesday’s ruling, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul expressed disagreement with it and, on Friday, his office filed an appeal of the decision to the state’s Supreme Court.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an Order staying the provisions in question:
Just hours before the controversial legal overhaul known as the SAFE-T Act was set to take effect in Illinois, the state’s supreme court postponed the bill’s abolition of the cash-bail system.
The SAFE-T Act, set to take effect on January 1, would eliminate the cash-bail system through a provision known as the Pretrial Fairness Act. The provision drew bipartisan criticism, including from many law-enforcement officials who deemed the move unconstitutional and a danger to public safety.
While a hearing date has not yet been set by the Court, a ruling striking down a portion of the law would likely not sit well with the State’s governor. Notes National Review:
The SAFE-T Act was the brainchild of Illinois’s governor J.B. Pritzker, who some have suggested as a potential Democratic presidential candidate in 2024. The bill was widely criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike, who accused Pritzker and his allies in the legislature of ignoring record-breaking levels of violent crime in Chicago.
Reaction to the stay was mixed.
CBS 2 reached out to several state and county offices about the decision. In a joint statement, the Kane and DuPage county state’s attorneys said, “We are very pleased with the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision.”
Attorney General Kwame Raoul also responded, saying in part, “We look forward to mounting a robust defense of the constitutionality of the law … and ensuring that it goes into effect across the state.”
Undoubtedly, there’s a certain degree of relief that Monday won’t see the inevitable confusion that would arise from different counties following different bail-related procedures.
“Tomorrow was supposed to be absolute chaos at 26th and California with this new law taking effect, and I think the Illinois Supreme Court realized that in making this rather late decision today to stop that from happening tomorrow,” said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller. “So I think they were sitting around today thinking, ‘How are we going to remedy this catastrophe?’ And I’m going to use the word catastrophe if this went ahead.”
The Court’s Order, embedded below, notes the concern regarding procedural consistency throughout the state:
In order to maintain consistent pretrial procedures throughout Illinois, the effective date of the Pretrial Fairness Act (Public Act 101-652 and Public Act 102-1104) is stayed during the pendency of the appeal in No. 129248 and until further order of this Court.
RedState will continue to monitor the course of the litigation and provide updates as they become available.