Watch CBS News

Attorneys present arguments for, against cash bail reform before Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois Supreme Court hears arguments in SAFE-T Act case
Illinois Supreme Court hears arguments in SAFE-T Act case 00:29

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) -- The future of the SAFE-T Act - the law eliminating cash bail - is now in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court.

The bill was supposed to take effect statewide on Jan. 1. But it has been on hold after 64 counties filed lawsuits claiming the law was unconstitutional.

The justices heard arguments from both the state and challengers.

Illinois Deputy Solicitor General Alex Hemmer argued on behalf of the state, saying the bail clause in the Illinois Constitution grants defendants the right to seek pretrial release – while not requiring the state to maintain monetary bail or any other kind of rules governing how pretrial release is carried out.

Hemmer also argued the Illinois General Assembly has the right to regulate pretrial procedures – and are not constrained by the state Constitution from doing so.

But numerous county state's attorneys spoke against the SAFE-T Act. Kankakee State's Attorney Jim Rowe said matters of bail reform belong on the ballot for a vote of the people – as already happened in New Jersey and New Mexico.

He said the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation that conflicts with the Constitution – which would require a popular vote on a matter such as abolition of cash bail.

"They literally tried to drive the reform by following 764 pages of directions at 4 a.m., in the middle of the night, in the dark, with an hour to get there," he said.

Special Assistant State's Attorney Alan Spellberg, representing Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow, also argued that the pretrial release provisions of the SAFE-T Act "unduly interfere with the judiciary's authority to set bail."

The high court stepped in just days after a Kankakee County judge ruled the no-cash-bail provision of the law is unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court also initially found the measure would unfairly take discretion on bail out of the hands of judges.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.