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Why judges won't be able to just lock up any defendant they want after bail reform

Why judges won't be able to just lock up any defendant they want after bail reform
An inmate peaks through the bars of his cell at Men's Central Jail in Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Critics of Senate Bill 10, California’s new law ending cash bail, are correct that many risk-averse judges, concerned about election challenges by ambitious prosecutors, may substitute preventive detention orders for the current practice of setting high amounts that violate the constitutional prohibition on “excessive” bail.

However, the state Judicial Council will prepare Rules of Court that establish preventive detention protocols, and the Legislature will adopt amendments that reduce the likelihood that defendants who do not present a flight risk or threat to public safety will remain in custody prior to the adjudication of charges.

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The regressive ballot initiative by the “bail bond empire” to repeal this landmark law should be rejected.

George Eskin, Santa Barbara

The writer, a retired Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge, served on the Judicial Council’s Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup.

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To the editor: The Times editorial board is under the delusion that pretrial detention will be the exception to the rule. Do you honestly think the vast majority of judges are going to feel comfortable simply releasing people who are accused of crimes? That should bode well for their reelection campaigns.

I suggest you spend one morning in arraignment court in downtown Los Angeles and see how often judges are releasing people on their own recognizance rather than setting monetary bail.

Furthermore, the suggestion that now is the time for everyone to work together on a law that has already passed is absurd. The time to do that was when it was being drafted. You don’t build a house and then draw up the plans for it.

You heard it here first: This rushed and unjust law will be repealed, because as Woodrow Wilson famously said: “Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it.”

Lou Shapiro, Los Angeles

The writer is a criminal defense attorney.

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