December 27, 2017
In recent years, bail reform has emerged as a hot topic nationally — and a bipartisan one at that. This past summer, Senators Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill called the Pretrial Integrity and Safety Act designed to encourage states to reform their bail practices.
At the state level, Illinois is one of many jurisdictions initiating significant efforts to address pretrial practices. While earlier efforts included the 2014 operational review of the Cook County Pretrial Services program and a three-county pilot study of a new pretrial risk assessment tool, the Illinois Supreme Court recognized that a clear and concise mission that promotes stakeholders "speaking with one voice" is crucial to championing public policy change and its implementation. In pursuit of building this foundational piece, the Supreme Court adopted a statewide policy statement for pretrial services on April 19, 2017. The statement is intended to serve as a guide for the trial courts going forward with various pretrial initiatives and achieve consistency with the statement’s goal of advancing pretrial services throughout Illinois: “The Illinois Supreme Court supports models of urban and rural pretrial practices that address the unique needs of our complex system of justice while maintaining public safety and defendant accountability. The models, however, are anchored in the principle that release decisions must be individualized and based upon a defendant’s level of risk.”
The Supreme Court’s April 2017 statement heralded the Court’s recent creation of the Supreme Court Commission on Pretrial Practices as a statewide, three-branch effort to address pretrial reform. The Commission is charged with conducting a comprehensive review of the State's pretrial detention system and making recommendations for amendments to state laws, Supreme Court Rules, or Supreme Court Policies, as necessary, to ensure pretrial practices in all jurisdictions in Illinois are consistent, in form and substance, with the Supreme Court's Policy Statement on Pretrial Services. The December 21 Order provides that “the Commission shall seek to ensure a fair, efficient, transparent, accountable and adequately-resourced system of pretrial services, which includes the use of evidence-based practices, and shall develop an operational structure that is guided by the National Institute of Corrections' Essential Elements of a High Functioning Pretrial System and Agency.”
Some of the Commission appointments include Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart; the Hon. David Hylla, Chair-elect of the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges; and Rodger Heaton, Chief of Staff in the Governor’s Office. Legislative appointments are in process but thus far include the House Speaker’s appointment of Rep. Elgie Sims, and the Senate President’s appointment of Sen. Scott Bennett. Justice Anne Burke is Supreme Court Liaison to the Commission and the Commission Chair is the Hon. Robbin Stuckert, Chief Judge of the 23rd Judicial Circuit.
The Commission is required to hold its first meeting within 60 days of the order being filed. No doubt future Commission agendas will include discussion on the Illinois Bail Reform Act signed into law in June 2017 and effective January 1, 2018. Among the Act’s provisions that bring challenges to statewide compliance is an amendment to the Code of Criminal Procedure to include the right to counsel in bail hearings. This is but one of the many issues discussed during a recent webinar presented by Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans (Circuit Court of Cook County), Chief Judge Stuckert, Judge William Yoder (11th Judicial Circuit), and Judge Brad Paisley (4th Judicial Circuit). The December 19 webinar was attended by nearly 200 Illinois judges. The moderator-led panel discussion provided an overview of the Bail Reform Act of 2017 and a forum for discussion on the statutory requirements. It is the start of many conversations to come on this important and timely topic.