The Judicial Council of CA’s failure to enact an emergency response to COVI9-19 that considers the lives of all people held in pretrial detention is putting incarcerated people’s lives at immediate risk. While the Emergency Bail Schedule purports to create opportunities for release for some, in reality it is leaving thousands of Californian’s in cages, at dire risk during a global pandemic.
What is the Judicial Council of California and What Does it Do?
The Judicial Council is the policy making body of the California courts: they set the budget and allocate funds for the courts, hold practicing judges accountable to standards and the law, set policies that judges and the courts must follow, and advance statewide legislation.
What did the CA Judicial Council get wrong in the Emergency Bail Schedule?
- The emergency order neglects thousands of incarcerated people – The Emergency Bail Schedule allowed for a $0 bail for people charged with misdemeanors and low level felonies in California jails, which gave judges discretion to release some people. However, the order kept bail astronomically high for everyone else, regardless of their needs, health risks, and vulnerabilities during this pandemic.
- The emergency order is not enforceable – The Judicial Council didn’t make the $0 bail schedule a requirement. Instead they left it up to judges and sheriff’s discretion – resulting in huge discrepancies wherein entire counties have elected to ignore the emergency bail schedule.
- The emergency order does not address incoming arrests – Even with the Emergency Bail Schedule, the judicial council has not rescinded enforcement of arrest warrants for charges that qualify for $0 bail. Therefore, people who are eligible for $0 bail are still being arrested, booked, and then released, putting themselves and others at risk of contracting COVID-19 unnecessarily.
- The emergency order impedes incarcerated people’s due process rights – An additional order from the Judicial Council mandated that all trials be suspended for 90 days – thus extending the amount of time people spend incarcerated pretrial.
What Actions Do We Demand from the Judicial Council?
We demand that the Judicial Council of CA amend the Emergency Bail Schedule to include the following:
- Release all people held pretrial across the state, regardless of their charge or bail amount.
- Issue collective orders to immediately release all eligible for $0 bail under the Emergency Bail Schedule.
- Cancel all arrest warrants for everyone who is eligible for $0 bail under the Emergency Bail Schedule.
- Mandate statewide access to speedy trials and hearings.
How Can I Help?
- Call the Judicial Council today, using the call script (below). Demand the CA Judicial Council act immediately.
- Use the email template (below) to send a message to CA Judicial Council officials.
- Post on social media about how the CA Judicial Council’s actions are affecting your community using #FreeBlackMamas & #WeComeForOurs. Sample posts can be found here.
CALL AND EMAIL SCRIPTS RE: CA JUDICIAL COUNCIL’S EMERGENCY BAIL SCHEDULE
Hi, I’m a California resident and am calling to demand that the Judicial Council immediately release all people held pretrial across the state, regardless of their charge or bail amount. Furthermore, I urge the Judicial Council to stop delaying trials which undermine people’s due process rights. These decisions are keeping people incarcerated longer. Each day that our incarcerated loved ones remain inside, they are at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19. Your decision to exclude people from the Emergency Bail Schedule places our loved ones’ lives on the line only because they cannot afford to pay their bail. You must act now!
Call-in Number: (415) 865- 4200
If you get the run around using that number, try:
- Merril Balasson, CA Judicial Council Public Affairs at (415) 865-7447
- Cathal Conneely, CA Judicial Council Public Information Officer at (800) 900-5980
Sample Email Script:
Subject: Judicial Council Must Act Now
Dear Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye,
I write to you today as a California resident living in [insert your county] County to express my concerns related to the Judicial Council’s Emergency Bail Schedule. In this global pandemic, somebody’s inability to pay their bail should not put their life at risk.
[OPTIONAL: Add why you care about this issue OR a personalized story to share how the Emergency Bail Schedule impacts you and your incarcerated loved one].
The Judicial Council’s inaction urgently puts many of our incarcerated loved ones’ lives at risk especially in the midst of a global pandemic. For these reasons, I urge the Judicial Council to immediately implement the following procedures:
- Amend the Emergency Bail Schedule to set $0 bail for everyone held pretrial across the state. You must not act as the judge, jury, and executioner by condemning people to die only because they cannot afford their bail.
- Issue an order directing every county to issue a collective order that immediately reduces bail amounts for every eligible person in jail. DAs and Judges in my county who are indifferent to the potential for suffering and catastrophic loss of life have refused to comply with the $0 bail Order and have been allowed to exploit loopholes, exceptions, and administrative delays that slow down critical releases.
- Issue an order that directs all counties to affirmatively quash arrest warrants for qualifying offenses. Serving arrest warrants for offenses that qualify for $0 bail unnecessarily increases exposure to COVID-19. Instead, courts should schedule and adequately notify people of a date to appear in court.
- Do not extend the timelines for arraignments, preliminary hearings, and trial rights. By doing so, you are subjecting people to increased exposure to COVID-19, without recourse, for considerably longer periods of time. Now more than ever, you must guard people’s due process rights without relying on video hearings that are shown to limit people’s access to competent counsel and individualized case consideration.
Please act immediately to safeguard the wellbeing and due process rights of everyone held pretrial across the state.