Ohio Chief Justice O’Connor’s “Bail Reform Legislation Would Put Domestic Violence Victims At Risk”
It’s no secret that leading the charge on bail reform has been Ohio’s Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, who, now lame-duck, seems intent on leaving her stamp on Ohio’s justice and court system in the final months of her term as Chief Justice. For the poor attorneys that have to carry the Chief’s water at the Capitol or face telling the Chief Justice no, we feel quite sorry.
Yet, it is quite important to remember that the Chief has made no bones about it—she wants to eliminate bail in Ohio. She doesn’t think people should be kept in jail pending trial. Of course, that morphed into a very complicated legal quilt of bail reform legalisms that it would take an expert to unwind. But the legal and constitutional gist is clear—defendants should not have to post bail in Ohio and should be released on their own recognizance. Listen to the Chief Justice explain how bail is supposed to mean release not jail: Chief Justice on Bail reform: ‘Ohio is Not Leading the Pack on it by Any Means’
Well, of course we have made it clear what the impact of these bills will be. Not good. But don’t take our word it. Take the word of Micaela Deming, an attorney at the Ohio Domestic Violence Network. In an article that appeared on both Yahoo.com and the Columbus Dispatch, Ms. Deming argued that, “proponents of the new bail reform bills, House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 182, claim they ensure that dangerous people will not be released, and this just isn’t true. If the bills become law, abusers charged with misdemeanor domestic violence offenses must be released within 72 hours.”
To add insult to injury, the Chief Justice lead the Ohio Supreme Court in declaring that public safety has nothing to do with bail. In fact, the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police has heavily criticized the decision. Strangely, consideration of public safety for purposes of bail is allowed in 45 of 50 states (well, 44 now). In fact, even California’s Statute reads, “In setting, reducing, or denying bail, a judge or magistrate shall take into consideration the protection of the public, the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at trial or at a hearing of the case. The public safety shall be the primary consideration.”
The Chief Justice has been peddling bail reform snake oil since she bought into the movement of former Chief Justice Daniels of New Mexico, which has turned New Mexico into Old Mexico. Legislators need to push the pause button on the Chief Justice’s bail reform and oppose SB 182 and HB 315. Instead, Ohio should embrace a more balanced system that prioritizes public safety. The tide is going the other way, with numerous states introducing legislation to prohibit free bails (release on own recognizance) in cases of repeat and violent defendants, including Colorado, Delaware, Missouri, Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas and soon to be others. Ohio should follow suit.