Bail Overhaul Will Continue With or Without New California Law, State Chief Justice Says

An undated photo shows the downtown Los Angeles skyline from bail bond row on Vignes Street. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

An undated photo shows the downtown Los Angeles skyline from bail bond row on Vignes Street. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on Tuesday defended a landmark new state law abolishing money bail, saying it was crafted to ensure courts “do not judge a person based on the size of their wallet or what they have access to in someone else’s wallet.”

In an annual meeting with reporters in San Francisco, the chief justice said the state’s top court officials would continue to improve how judges determine whether criminal defendants are fit for release ahead of trial, even if the new law is suspended amid an effort from the bail industry to block it through a voter referendum.

“We are seeking to make it as a fair and transparent as possible,” she said of the pretrial detention process. “We as a branch supported [Senate Bill] 10 because we believed it was a fairer way to assess a person charged with a crime.”

The role of judges in the new pretrial system has been at the center of the debate over the new bail law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in the final days of the 2018 legislative session.

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