Like many jurisdictions across the nation, Los Angeles County has a big problem with its bail system. Scores of defendants are being forced to wait far too long to make their case that they should have their bails lowered or be released through alternative means. Unfortunately, rather than looking for serious ways to remedy the situation, politics has reared its ugly head once again. The culprit this time is the Civil Rights Corps, which is attempting to get the results they want through a good old-fashioned lawsuit. The organization filed the class action case of Urquidi, et al v. Los Angeles County, et al, in Los Angeles Superior Court on November 14, 2022.
The problem is, the very premise of their suit has already been determined to be without merit after rulings in numerous court cases stretching from California to Alabama the past nearly eight years. It all began with Varden v. City of Clanton, Alabama, filed in 2015 by Equal Justice Under Law, a predecessor of the Civil Rights Corps.
The essence of the various lawsuits was quite simple: if a person does not make bail it is due to their being impoverished. Based on this premise, plaintiffs have claimed that there must be a right to an affordable bail, i.e., a person must always be released from custody on a bail they can actually post and never held in jail pending trial.
The nearly identical rulings of the long line of federal and state copycat cases — all brought by the Civil Rights Corps — rejected the claims on equally basic legal theory. Most recently in Hester v. Gentry, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit instead held that bail does not create discrimination against the indigent since these individuals have the ability to go to court and argue for alternatives to bail.