Circuit Judge Thomas Cunnington, Chief Judge of the 21st Judicial Circuit, has issued his ruling in the case of Rowe, et al., v. Pritzker, et al. Judge Cunnington ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs and held the Pre-Trial Fairness Act, specifically the bail reform and pre-trial release provisions, unconstitutional. The immediate net effect of this ruling is that the pre-trial release provisions and bail reform will not go into effect in the 65 counties that were party to the lawsuit. The other provisions of the Safe-T Act, such as body cameras, training, etc., were upheld.
The Plaintiffs in this lawsuit consisted of 65 counties throughout Illinois who filed suit against Governor JB Pritzker, Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Senate President Donald Harmon and Speaker of the House Christopher Welch. Kankakee County and Will County were the first counties to file suit; thereafter, the Illinois Supreme Court consolidated all 65 cases into the Kankakee County case. The Plaintiffs were collectively represented by a litigation team consisting of the State’s Attorney and their Assistant State’s Attorneys from Kankakee, Will, Vermilion, Kendall, McHenry and Sangamon Counties. The parties argued their positions before Judge Cunnington on December 20th, and today’s ruling concludes the state court action. Any appeal, should the Defendants choose to pursue one, must now be filed with the Illinois Supreme Court.
“Today’s ruling affirms that we are still a government of the people, and that the Constitutional protections afforded to the citizens of Illinois – most importantly the right to exercise our voice with our vote – are inalienable. The Act was a 765 page bill passed during a lame duck session under cover of darkness at 4:00a.m., affording legislators less than one hour to read it and vote on it, and denying the general public any opportunity to offer comment or input. It amended the State Constitution and eroded the constitutional protections of the Victim Rights Act, all while disenfranchising the people of their Constitutional right to vote on such reforms. The people of Illinois deserve better than that, and today’s verdict condemns the Act for exactly what it is: unconstitutional.” said State’s Attorney Jim Rowe.
Judge Cunnington held the Safe-T Act unconstitutional on the basis that it violates the Separation of Powers clause, violates the Victim Rights Act, and unconstitutionally amends Article I Section 9 of the Constitution because the voters were denied their right to vote on such amendments. In his ruling, Judge Cunnington found that “had the Legislature wanted to change the provisions in the Constitution regarding eliminating monetary bail...they should have submitted the question on the ballot to the electorate at a general election”; he further stated that the Legislature’s action in violation of Separation of Powers “stripped away” the Court’s ability to ensure the safety of the victim and victim’s family.