Missouri Supreme Court’s New Bail Rules Will Upend the Criminal Justice System on July 1, 2019
The Missouri Supreme Court’s new bail rules are going into effect on July 1, 2019. Unlike other states looking at bail reform, these rules were crafted by a secret panel that was not open to the public. There was no notice and opportunity to be heard. The public was never able to come and testify, nor were other key constituent groups that might have wanted to participate in the process such as sheriffs, police, counties, corrections, etc. Instead, the third branch of the government is handing down an edict, and expecting everyone in Missouri to bow down and comply.
Why are the rules problematic? They attempt to implement the so-called no money bail system in Missouri, which is proving to have a major negative impact on public safety in places where it has been tried such as New Mexico. In addition, victims will be strongly affected by not having their day in court due to defendants, who get out on a get-out-of-jail free card, simply deciding not to show up for court and face justice.
Finally, these rules tie judges’ hands by removing judicial discretion and forcing them to hand out the get-out-of-jail free cards. Right now, judges have discretion to impose the appropriate bail and conditions of release for criminal defendants. This rule creates a presumption of free bail, and makes judges jump through hoops to impose a bail in order to secure the release of a defendant. That removes accountability from the system and will result in diminished criminal accountability in Missouri.
Public officials should demand that the Missouri Supreme Court not implement these new rules, slow the process down, and bring some sunshine and transparency to the process.
Lawmakers should tell the Missouri Supreme Court to stop its policy-making and do what every other state considering bail reform has done—have a public, open and inclusive process that studies the current system, identifies the problems, and then identifies the solutions.
Policy-making is a legislative matter…not a judicial one.