Opponents of SAFE-T Act file arguments with Illinois Supreme Court

They contend the controversial law, which would eliminate cash bail in Illinois, is unconditional and improperly ties judge’s hands when deciding the conditions of release for people accused of crimes.

SHARE Opponents of SAFE-T Act file arguments with Illinois Supreme Court
The 800-page criminal justice reform bill known as the SAFE-T Act sits on a table awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature during a ceremony at Chicago State University in February of 2021. 

The 800-page criminal justice reform bill known as the SAFE-T Act sits on a table awaiting Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature during a ceremony at Chicago State University in February of 2021.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times-file

Opponents of a controversial law that would eliminate cash bail in Illinois filed their arguments with the Illinois Supreme Court on Friday, revisiting their claims that the law is unconstitutional and improperly ties judge’s hands when deciding the conditions of release for people accused of crimes.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments next month in the case, though a date has yet to be set.

The justices will be considering a ruling in December by Kankakee County Chief Judge Thomas Cunnington, who found parts of the law to be unconstitutional just days before it was set to take effect.

Cunnington ruled in favor of a group of state’s attorneys and sheriffs who brought more than 60 lawsuits challenging aspects of the wide-ranging criminal justice reform bill known as the SAFE-T Act. Their cases had been consolidated into one.

Last month, Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office filed its opening arguments with the state’s highest court, contending the opponents’ constitutional arguments were “badly flawed.”

Legislators who wrote the bill, and reform advocates who support it, have argued that cash bail is inherently unfair and doesn’t benefit public safety when some defendants accused of crimes are released ahead of trial while others are held in jail because they lack the financial ability to post bond.

Opponents to the law argue lawmakers violated the state’s constitution when they failed to seek approval from voters through a constitutional amendment, and they say they would “strongly support” such a system if the state had done so.

“This did not occur,” the latest filing argues. “In so doing, the General Assembly has illegitimately attempted to amend the Illinois Constitution.”

The brief also addresses arguments by Raoul’s office that the prosecutors and sheriffs who brought the suit lack standing because they aren’t alleging a violation to their own rights by the act, which deals with the rights of criminal defendants.

The filing argues that “state’s attorneys have a clear interest ... and would suffer a cognizable injury if they were tasked with abiding by and enforcing unconstitutional bail provisions.”

Sheriffs face “heightened danger to employees in attempting to secure the presence of unwilling criminal defendants,” it adds.

The attorney general’s office is expected to respond by Feb. 27, before oral arguments are delivered before the justices.

Cunnington’s ruling only affected municipalities who brought the suit. The Cook County Circuit Court, which has been supportive of bail reform, had been expected to go forward with following the new law as of Jan. 1.

But those plans were dashed when the justices halted any implementation of the law, citing the need to “maintain consistent pretrial procedures” during the appeal.

The Latest
Trump could be seen reaching with his right hand toward his neck. There appeared to be blood on his face.
“I’m here,” Robert said. “My mind is here and until something changes, I’m here.”
A 31-year-old motorist rear-ended a semi about 12:50 a.m. Saturday in the southbound lanes of the Stevenson Expressway near Harlem Avenue. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Playing in their first Grand Slam together, duo beat Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe 7-6(5), 7-6(1).