California Supreme Court Issues Unanimous, Landmark Decision in Humphrey Case Challenging the Constitutionality of Money Bail
March 25, 2021, San Francisco — In a unanimous decision published earlier today, the California Supreme Court ruled that California’s current bail system violates the federal and state constitutions. Writing for the Court, Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar noted, “whether an accused person is detained pending trial often does not depend on a careful, individualized determination of the need to protect public safety, but merely — as one judge observes — the accused’s ability to post the sum provided in a county’s uniform bail schedule.” In light of today’s ruling, judges must now consider a defendant’s ability to pay bail, in addition to the seriousness of the charges and the defendant’s prior criminal history.
In October 2018, the Bar Association of San Francisco and two other bar associations filed an amicus curiae brief in this case. The brief was written by BASF Amicus Committee member A. Marisa Chun, Crowell & Moring, and included contributions by fellow Committee member Steve Hirsch, Keker Van Nest & Peters.
On today’s ruling, Ms. Chun commented, “It’s a landmark, unanimous decision by the California Supreme Court. Justice Cuellar’s brilliant opinion makes clear the simple, but urgent, proposition, that ‘No person should lose the right to liberty simply because that person can’t afford to post bail.’ The Bar Association of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Bar Association and the Santa Clara County Bar Association were pleased to contribute to the consideration of this important case, to ensure that the equal protection and due process rights of all Californians are vindicated in the real world -- not just in theory.”
BASF President Marvin K. Anderson thanked the Amicus Committee for their work. “On behalf of BASF and the Justice and Diversity Center, I congratulate Marisa for her thoughtful and impassioned advocacy on this important issue, and express our sincere appreciation to Steve and others on the Amicus Committee who devoted their time and energy to making a difference in our community.”
Bar Association of San Francisco and the Justice and Diversity Center
Crowell & Moring
The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) advances fairness and equality by providing pro bono legal services to low-income people and educational programs that foster diversity in the legal profession. JDC is the largest legal services providers in San Francisco. JDC’s programs serve approximately 9,500 disadvantaged San Franciscans a year, with the overarching goal of assisting the community’s most vulnerable members with accessing the judicial system and strengthening their personal, professional, and economic security.
The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) is a nonprofit voluntary membership organization of attorneys, law students, and legal professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1872, BASF enjoys the support of more than 7,500 individuals, law firms, corporate legal departments, and law schools. BASF provides a collective voice for public advocacy, advances professional growth and education, and attempts to elevate the standards of integrity, honor, and respect in the practice of law.