Federal Judge Refuses to Restore NJ Cash Bail

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A federal judge on Thursday declined to put the brakes on New Jersey’s sweeping bail system overhaul, ruling it did not serve the public interest to roll back the changes in the midst of a constitutional dispute, reports NJ.com. Judge Jerome Simandle dismissed a request for an injunction from lawyers for the bail bond industry and a Camden County man forced to wear an ankle monitor while awaiting trial. Their motion requested the judge restore cash bail as an option, which would have effectively turned back the clock on the changes to New Jersey’s justice system that took effect on January 1.

The overhaul largely replaced cash bail with an arrangement where judges, guided by a risk assessment algorithm, can order defendants locked up or subjected to varying degrees of monitoring based on their risk of flight or danger to the community. Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general hired by the bail bonds company Lexington National Insurance Corporation, took up the case of Brittan Holland, who was charged with second-degree aggravated assault after a bar fight. Under the new system, Holland was ordered to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and submit to weekly check-ins as he awaited trial. Clement argued Holland should have also had the option of posting bail. The new system was supported by Gov. Chris Christie as well as members of the state Legislature, the New Jersey Supreme Court and civil liberties groups. This month, police in Newark sharply criticized the system after a man released into pretrial monitoring was accused of killing two people. Reformers say such cases were also common under the old system, where defendants who posted bail were rearrested for new crimes.

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