Illinois Supreme Court building.
State of Illinois
Illinois appellate courts have been hit with a “dramatic increase” in appeals since the elimination of cash bail, with those appeals coming from people challenging orders keeping them in jail or imposing conditions, such as electronic monitoring, on their release.
The state’s high court announced Tuesday it is creating a task force of appellate court justices to study the issue. The task force is slated to hold its first meeting in the next two weeks and is expected to report to the Supreme Court within 45 days.
Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, which took effect in September, people can appeal a judge’s decision ordering them held in custody or setting conditions on their release.
Once it receives all filings in a case, the appeals court has 14 days to deliver a ruling.
As of Dec. 31, more than 160 appeals have been filed in the First District Appellate Court, which is located in Chicago and hears appeals of cases in Cook County.
But other appellate districts in Illinois have seen significantly more appeals — even as circuit courts in those districts see far fewer cases.
The Fourth District Appellate Court, located in Springfield, hears appeals from 41 central Illinois counties. It has seen the most appeals, with more than 430 filed by the end of the year.
The Fifth District, which hears cases from the state’s southernmost counties, has seen more than 390 appeals.
Data on how many of the appeals have been heard and ruled on was not immediately available.
“Appellate justices and courts throughout the state are working tirelessly to consider and issue opinions on the more than 1,500 appeals filed since September 18, 2023 related to detention and pretrial decisions across Illinois,” a spokesman for the Supreme Court said in a statement.
The Pretrial Fairness Act mandates that defendants have an expectation to be released while awaiting trial and eliminates the use of money to secure their release.
Instead, judges are supposed to order someone held in custody only if prosecutors ask for it and successfully argue they would be a danger or would not appear at future hearings if released.
Judges are supposed to set the least restrictive conditions.
In Cook County. courthouse insiders say the volume of appeals was expected — and are necessary to sort out legal questions that have arisen since the new rules were put into practice.
“We’re grateful for how thoughtful these opinions have been,” Mary Marubio, the acting presiding judge of Cook County’s pretrial division, said of the justices’ rulings in the cases.
Marubio said the lower number of appeals in the First District shows how well the new law was being applied in Cook County.
“I think it’s a combination of preparations by the judiciary and public defender’s office and the good judgment by the state’s attorney’s office in choosing their cases,” she said.
Sharlyn Grace, a policy adviser to the Cook County public defender’s office, agreed the appeals process “is how we clarify how the law works for real people in real cases.”
But with the number of appeals and changes to how long the appeals process takes, she said people now are waiting longer, sometimes months, for a decision from the appellate court.
But Grace said she expects the volume of appeals to slow as the courts continue to clarify the new law.
Recent decisions in the First District include justices affirming a Cook County judge’s decision to hold someone without bail even though his particular case wasn’t heard under a rule that defendants must appear before a judge within 48 hours of arrest for a detention-eligible offense.
Due to the judge’s high caseload, the defendant’s case wasn’t called for about two hours after that window closed. The justices ruled there was no violation of the statute because the defendant was brought to the courthouse to appear within the timeframe, which they said was reasonable.
In another, the justices overturned a judge’s detention order in a case where a man was accused of recklessly firing a gun through a wall in his home, striking someone in a bathroom.
The justices said prosecutors failed to prove there were no conditions the court could set to maintain public safety and ensure the defendant showed up for court, in particular noting the defendant’s lack of a previous criminal background.