Marking the second reversal on the matter in under a week, outgoing California Attorney General (and Senator-elect) Kamala Harris said yesterday that she will not, in fact, support a challenge to San Francisco's cash-bail system. The Chronicle reports that a spokesperson from Harris's office confirmed that she had not and would not file the promised motion in the support of the challenge being brought by the nonprofit group Equal Justice Under Law.
The group is working on behalf of two defendants seeking to overturn the cash-bail system. The argument is that by requiring defendants to pay cash for their pretrial freedom, poor defendants are disproportionately locked up before they have even gone to trial. Specifically, the suit alleges that San Francisco has a "wealth-based pretrial detention scheme, which operates to jail some of San Francisco’s poorest residents solely because they cannot pay an arbitrary amount of money."
City Attorney Dennis Herrera said he will refuse to fight the class-action lawsuit, passing the buck to Harris — who, it seems, is still figuring out exactly where she stands on the matter. It was just over two weeks ago that Harris declared she would seek approval from a federal judge to defend San Francisco's cash-bail system. Then, over the weekend, the Chronicle reports that Harris announced a change of heart.
“We will argue that it is unconstitutional for local authorities to impose bail in a way that does not consider a person’s ability to pay, or alternative methods of ensuring their appearance at trial,” Harris's spokesperson Kristin Ford said in a statement picked up by the Chron. “Cash-bail systems have a disparate impact on the poor — often times forcing people to choose between paying bail and going further into debt, or sitting in jail for days at the risk of losing their family, housing, or employment.”
Harris reportedly intended to file a motion in support of the challenge Tuesday, but that never materialized. “We actually didn’t end up filing a motion to intervene,” Ford told the paper Wednesday. The reason for the failure to file, according to the Chron, is that Harris changed her mind yet again.
The suit will continue forward, but without the Attorney General's support. Unless she changes her mind again, that is.