The Judicial Council heard firsthand from members of a workgroup recommending money bail be replaced by a risk-based assessment and supervision system that would help judges decide whether to release or detain defendants before trial based on their threat to public safety and their likelihood of making a court appearance.

Established by Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye to study California’s pretrial release and detention system, the Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup submitted its report to the Chief Justice last month. The workgroup presented its process, findings, and recommendations as an informational item to the council at its public meeting this week in Sacramento.

Judge Brian Back, co-chair of the workgroup, talked about fairness and the importance of the pretrial stage. “There are people who are not a flight or public safety risk that are only in custody because they can’t afford bail—that’s wrong,” he said. “There are also people who are a public safety risk that are only out of custody because they can afford bail—that’s wrong too. These decisions made at the pretrial stage are profound in terms of the impact on the individual, the family, and the community.”

“Members of the workgroup were diverse individuals with diverse backgrounds, representing diverse parts of the state,” said Judge Lisa Rodriguez, the other co-chair of the workgroup. “We came in with a clean slate and an open mind. Does the system need to be changed? Was there anything we could recommend that would make the system better, fairer, and protect the public in the best way possible?”

“I am grateful to the workgroup, and I support its conclusion that a pretrial system that relies on the financial resources of the accused is inherently unsafe and unjust,” said Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who thanked the workgroup and shared next steps. “These recommendations will serve as a much-needed framework as we consult with Governor Brown and the Legislature on a three-branch solution that protects the public and ensures court appearances, while promoting fair and equal access to justice for all Californians.”

See the recommendations, FAQs, and video of the presentation.

Other items on the council meeting agenda include:

Court Innovation Grants: The council received an update on the grants program, which funds court projects designed to improve efficiency and increase the public’s access to justice. Most of the funding is going to collaborative justice, as well as self-help, family, and juvenile court programs. The council heard about San Mateo’s DUI Court, Fresno’s Juvenile Human Trafficking Court, San Joaquin’s Community Supervision Court System, and other innovation grant-funded programs. Watch (video best viewed in Internet Explorer)

Legislative Priorities for 2018: The council approved legislative priorities for the upcoming year, which include: investment in the judicial branch; securing critically needed judgeships; funding courthouse construction; pursuing a three-branch solution to improve California’s fines, fees, penalties, and assessments structure; and advocating for legislation to implement the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System and the Pretrial Detention Reform Workgroup. Watch (video best viewed in Internet Explorer)

Language Help for Court Users: The council approved language access recommendations requiring each superior court to designate a Language Access Representative that can help court users and staff locate language access resources and information. The recommendations also call for courts to adopt a language access services complaint form and complaint procedures. The new rules further implement the many recommendations contained in the council’s Strategic Plan for Language Access in the California Courts.

Family Law Update: The council received an informational report on family law initiatives in California, including: developments to improve access to justice in family courts, such as self-help centers and improved court rules and forms; services and education for judges and court staff provided by the Judicial Council; and projects in development to further access to the fair disposition of family law cases, including the expansion of pro bono representation, translation/interpreting services, and technology to increase access to information. Watch (video best viewed in Internet Explorer)

An archived videocast of the entire meeting broken out by topic will be available on the council’s meeting information webpage.