Memo Finds Cook County Bail System Unconstitutional

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is criticizing Cook County’s bail bond system.

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In a memo Holder and his law firm prepared at the request of Cook County Public Defender Amy Campanelli, Holder finds Cook County is currently violating both the Eighth and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by routinely setting bail amounts regardless of defendants’ ability to make bail. The county is changing that system soon.

Campanelli says a key recommendation is to ask the Illinois Supreme Court to consider requiring a hearing to decide if a defendant can even afford bail before setting one, making the upcoming changes in Cook County effective statewide.

“We can’t have people in Cook County looking at the present ability to pay and they are getting released on high bonds or high bonds with conditions but the rest of the state is being held in custody because they’re poor. So we need uniformity and we need permanency. Because, unfortunately, Chief Judge (Tim) Evans will probably not be the chief judge forever, and another chief judge could come in and change the system, and write a different order. We don’t want that.”

An order issued by Evans requiring such hearings for felony cases takes effect in mid-September.

In other news in Chicago tonight

The former head of the Chicago Police Board will meet with Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday about being reappointed.

Lori Lightfoot, who also served as chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Police Accountability, has been a vocal critic of the mayor’s efforts at reforms, but says she wants another term as police board president.

Her term expired Monday and Lightfoot must be reappointed to another two-year term to continue.

“This isn’t about me,” Lightfoot said. “The police board serves a very specific function within the reform and accountability infrastructure for the city, and instability and uncertainty, I think, undermines the entirety of the process. And there’s no reason for that.”

Lakefront development

The former U.S. Steel property on the South Side will have a new owner—and a new future in just five months.

The green technology development company Emerald Living won a bid to convert the 440-acre site into a mixed-use development, including 20,000 housing units, as well as commercial retail and office spaces.

The mayor’s office says the new site will be called New SouthWorks.

The massive complex, on the lakefront in the city’s South Chicago neighborhood, produced beams and sheets of steel for 112 years until it shut down in 1992.

Emerald Living has five months for an environmental review and to close the sale.

Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter @BrandisFriedman

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