NEW JERSEY - a Dallas Cowboys football fan involved in a bar fight is claiming he was denied his constitutional right to bail by a New Jersey judge.
The class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
According to a lawsuit, 32-year-old Brittan Holland was arrested and charged following an argument and fight with a Philadelphia Eagles fan in Winslow Township. He was subsequently ordered to be released wearing a GPS ankle monitor pending his trial.
However, the suit contends that this action reflects the unlawfulness of New Jersey’s bail reform laws, which took effect on Jan. 1. Intended to make things more fair for defendants who lack the financial resources to be bailed out, the new system calls for judges to utilize a risk assessment tool to determine whether to hold defendants in jail or release them on a simple promise to appear.
The suit, filed by former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement on behalf of Holland and Lexington National Insurance Corporation, which represents others in Holland’s situation, maintains that New Jersey’s current bail reform laws are illegal.
Clement argues that bail is guaranteed in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
The defense is led by Attorney General Christopher Porrino, representing Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, to which he reports. Christie was strongly behind the push for New Jersey bail reform when it passed in 2014.
By ordering Holland’s release on the condition that he wear an ankle monitor, Clement’s suit states that he was thus denied the option of bail, to which he should have been legally entitled.
Since taking effect, the state’s new bail laws have been highly controversial, with both law enforcement and victims groups criticizing it as creating a threat to public safety.
Under the former system, which used money bail to create accountability, potentially dangerous defendants were carefully monitored by bail agents after being released. With the new system, there is little incentive for a person who has been freed from jail to show up for court, the press release states.
As for Holland, Clement’s suit claims that under the previous law, he would have very likely “paid a non-excessive amount of bail to secure his future appearance, likely with the help of a surety company like Plaintiff Lexington National. He then would have enjoyed his full pre-trial liberty, just like any other presumptively innocent member of society.”
However, because the court never had the option to set bail, Holland’s release was secured through non-monetary conditions, which included the use of an ankle monitor, through which his “liberty is sharply curtailed.” The suit adds, “he cannot shop for food or basic necessities and cannot take his son to baseball practice”
A preliminary injunction motion has been filed, with the court being asked to hear the matter by July 17 – and rule on it in an expedited fashion.
The American Bail Coalition is dedicated protecting the Constitutional right to bail and the promotion, protection and advancement of the surety bail profession in the U.S., the press release states.