SPRINGFIELD, ILL. (NEXSTAR) — A Kankakee County Judge ruled Wednesday night that the Pre-Trial Fairness Act is unconstitutional.
Over 60 State’s Attorneys filed suit against the SAFE-T Act, alleging that cash bail is guaranteed in the Constitution, among other counts.
Judge Thomas Cunnington agreed with the State’s Attorneys that the elimination of cash bail is unconstitutional, but sided with the state on other counts, saying the rest of the SAFE-T Act is constitutional. Cunnington also ruled the Pre-Trial Fairness Act is a violation of the separation of powers.
“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,” Cunnington said in his ruling.
Cunnington severed the Pre-Trial Fairness Act from the rest of the law. His ruling means that 65 counties across the state will not get rid of the current cash bail system on January 1st, 2023, unless the Supreme Court intervenes.
The ruling out of Kankakee County only applies to the 65 counties that filed the suit. The 37 counties not involved in the suit can still proceed with the elimination of cash bail.
The state is appealing the decision directly to the Illinois Supreme Court.
“Although the court’s decision is binding in the 64 cases that were consolidated in Kankakee County, it is important to note that it is not binding in any other case, including those involving criminal defendants in any of the state’s 102 counties,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said in a statement. “To definitively resolve this challenge to the pretrial release portions of the SAFE-T Act, Governor Pritzker, the legislative leaders named in the consolidated cases and I intend to appeal the circuit court’s decision directly to the Illinois Supreme Court, where we will ask the court to reverse the circuit court’s decision.
Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, a Democrat, addressed the ruling in a Facebook post Wednesday night.
“Today’s ruling affirms that we are still a government of the people, and that the Constitutional protections afforded to the citizens of Illinois – most importantly the right to exercise our voice with our vote – are inalienable,” Rowe said in a statement. “The people of Illinois deserve better than that, and today’s verdict condemns the Act for exactly what it is: unconstitutional.”
Governor J.B. Pritzker stood by the Pre-Trial Fairness Act and applauded the Attorney General’s quick appeal to the Supreme Court.
“The General Assembly and advocates worked to replace an antiquated criminal justice system with a system rooted in equity and fairness,” he said. “We cannot and should not defend a system that fails to keep people safe by allowing those who are a threat to their community to simply buy their way out of jail.”
The Supreme Court could use its supervisory authority to set the ground rules before the court makes an official ruling.
This story will be updated.