By Marcia M. Meis, Director
With the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision last week in Rowe v. Raoul affirming the constitutionality of the Pretrial Fairness Act (PFA), Illinois is set to be the first state to eliminate cash bail on Sept. 18 – now less than 60 days away.
Criminal justice system stakeholders are quickly moving in response, resuming preparations that were being finalized in December 2022 before the January 1, 2023, effective date of the PFA was stayed pending appeal. The resources created by the Illinois Supreme Court Pretrial Implementation Task Force (Task Force) have been reviewed for accuracy and remain available on the Illinois Courts website.
The materials include the pilot site lessons learned from Kane County which used a proactive and collaborative approach to prepare all justice partners for implementation. These resources include flowcharts and sample orders - important documents to review now that things are moving from pilot to It’s Go Time.
The Implementation Task Force members - particularly the Task Force Chair, the Honorable Robbin Stuckert (Ret.) – put in countless hours of tremendous work and subject matter expertise to create these resources. Their benefit to pretrial preparedness for the Illinois criminal justice system cannot be overstated.
The Implementation Task Force also hosted eight town halls and six regional education seminars in conjunction with the Illinois Judicial College. The resumption of education on PFA Implementation for judges and other system stakeholders is being planned – more on that very soon.
The Supreme Court and AOIC are also working on a plan for distribution of the $10 million appropriated by the General Assembly to the newly-created Public Defender Fund. This money will be allocated to the 101 counties with populations less than 3,000,000 (all but Cook County) for public defenders and public defender services. This money will be a game changer for many resource-challenged public defender offices.
All of these many moving parts in the Illinois courts reflect that the Rowe opinion was in many ways just the beginning of our state’s new pretrial era. This sea change for the court system will undoubtedly raise many more questions and present new challenges during the implementation phase. With collective efforts to continue justice partner communication and collaboration, this transition will be a success.