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Pritzker praises ‘good repute’ of justices ending cash bail as some question conflicts of interest

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(The Center Square) – The politics around ending cash bail in Illinois continues as the Illinois Supreme Court set the start of the policy for Sept. 18.

In early 2021, the Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity-Today Act narrowly passed the Illinois General Assembly. The measure, which delayed implementation of no cash bail statewide, changed various aspects of regulation on police and criminal justice policies. Multiple reforms have passed since then, including in late 2022 to expand the list of violent crimes criminal suspects could be held pending trial.

Despite the changes, state’s attorneys from across Illinois sued to block the law, alleging it violated the separation of powers and the victims’ bill of rights in the Illinois Constitution. After hearing the case in March, the Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the law as constitutional.

Local courts now have until Sept. 18 to begin the policy of ending cash bail. Many were already working toward the Jan. 1 implementation before the law was postponed pending the outcome of the court’s decision this week.

In a statement, Illinois House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said the end of cash bail isn’t about bail reform.

“Anyone that is familiar with the court system knows that this is not about the ability whether an offender can post bail but a progressive movement to decriminalize crime and promote an environment for repeat offenders,” McCombie said.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul told Illinois Central Management Services the “notion that the sky is falling” is “nonsense.”

“Judges retain the ability to make an assessment as to whether somebody is a risk to public safety or is a flight risk,” Raoul said.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the court’s order was a “common sense ruling.” And, despite concerns of perceived conflicts of interest from the governor’s $1 million donation to each of two Supreme Court justices from when they were running for the job in 2022, Pritzker praised the jurists.

“I think every one of those jurists is a person of good repute. They’re bringing all of their knowledge and experience to the table to try and make good decisions,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said Republicans lost on the issue in the 2022 election.

State Rep. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, argued ending cash bail would lose if put up to the voters. McClure decried the ruling and the justices who didn’t recuse themselves.

“I’m sorry, but those two justices should not be ruling on any case involving any major piece of legislation involving Gov. Pritzker. Period,” McClure said.

In a separate lawsuit challenging Pritzker’s gun and magazine ban, Justices Elizabeth Rochford and Mary O’Brien refused to recuse themselves as was motioned by attorneys for state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur. The court’s decision in that case is still pending.

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