ABC Statement: U.S. Supreme Court Ruling: Hester v. Gentry
The United States Supreme Court has let stand a ruling in a controversial court case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta. The high court declined to hear the case on Monday, June 12. The Eleventh Circuit had earlier ruled in the case of Hester v. Gentry that the imposition of bail that serves to detain is constitutional. The decision also allowed municipalities to use misdemeanor bail schedules, presuming they met certain due process requirements.
“This is a definitive victory for the constitutional right to monetary bail by sufficient sureties. This is the second and perhaps, final time, the Supreme Court has rejected the theory put forth by activists that there is a ‘right to an affordable bail.’ It has also rejected the premise that a municipality, in the operation of their system of pretrial release, may not impose cash bail and employ a schedule of bails. This applies whether it is limited to misdemeanors, as in this case, or felony offenses, as well.
It has been a long, nine-year road from Jones v. The City of Clanton to get to where we are. We sincerely commend the legal team, officials and Sheriff Matt Gentry of Cullman County for their dogged persistence and brooking no refusal as they fought relentless for what is right. We celebrate a victory for the constitution against a well-funded national legal machine.”
- Jeff Clayton, Executive Director
Hester v. Gentry was a federal class-action suit that concerned a man who was arrested for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. He challenged the Cullman County, Alabama bail schedule, arguing that there is no rational basis for a bail schedule and that all defendants must be released within a short time period of arrest.
The is the second rejection by the Supreme Court of the fundamental theory that monetary bail security and bail schedules are unconstitutional -- a premise that has been repeatedly argued by advocates in numerous Circuit Court cases throughout the nation in recent years. However, this most recent denial of certiorari effectively ends the unconstitutional procedures practiced by many jurisdictions that have resulted in the deprivation of the fundamental right to bail. It may be considered a monumental defeat for the Civil Rights Corps, which for years has sought improvements in the system.
Beginning in 2015 with Jones v. The City of Clanton to this decision by the Supreme Court, we are close to the final word on the constitutionality of bail. Only one case on the matter remains on the docket -- the Ninth Circuit case of Urquidi v. City of Los Angeles. It remains to be seen if that case finds its way up the Supreme Court or if Hester v. Gentry becomes the definitive, closing last say on the matter. In the meantime, the pending constitutional challenge to the bail schedule in Urquidi v. City of Los Angeles will have all eyes on Los Angeles.
READ: 11th Circuit Opinion