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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Windhorst: 'Last night's decision validated many of the arguments that I have been making'

"Last night's decision validated many of the arguments that myself and others have been making over the last few years regarding the constitutionality of the Pre-Trial Fairness Act portion of the SAFE-T Act," Windhorst said. "I would also like to thank the bipartisan group of State’s Attorneys and sheriffs that came together and filed a lawsuit to bring this effort forward and to make last night’s decision possible. The court and its ruling made clear the ability of a court to set monetary bail is inherent in the judicial power of the courts and provided by the state constitution. That is something many of you here have heard us discuss over the last two years. In order for that inherent power of the court to be amended or taken away, it must be done through the proper process, which is amending the constitution rather than legislation."

"As the court made clear, bail is the middle ground to strike a balance between the defendant's right to potential release prior to trial as well as a requirement to the criminal justice system, to ensure the defendant’s presence at trial and for the protection of the public," Windhorst continued. "The SAFE-T Act as we have said limits judicial discretion by eliminating cash bail and this opinion makes that clear. So, we are here now with potential chaos that may ensue on January 1. We will have counties throughout the state who have a cash bail system and counties that will potentially not have the cash bail system."

NBC Chicago reported that the Pretrial Fairness Act, a portion of the SAFE-T Act that would eliminate cash bail, was found to be unconstitutional in late December by a Kankakee County Judge following a class-action lawsuit from multiple jurisdictions in the state. The decision meant that cash bail would remain law in 65 Illinois counties, leading to confusion following the Illinois Attorney General's Office filing an appeal.

According to CBS Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court issued a ruling on Saturday putting the SAFE-T Act on hold statewide just hours before it was set to be put into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday. The Court found that the measure would unfairly take powers over bail discretion away from judges.

"Tomorrow was supposed to be absolute chaos at 26th and California with this new law taking effect, and I think the Illinois Supreme Court realized that in making this rather late decision today to stop that from happening tomorrow," said CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller. "So, I think they were sitting around today thinking, 'How are we going to remedy this catastrophe?' And I'm going to use the word catastrophe if this went ahead."

Patrick Windhorst is a Metropolis resident who was first elected to the Illinois House in 2018. His legislative experience includes serving on the Restorative Justice Committee and the Judiciary - Criminal Committee.

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