Magisterial district judges (MDJs) in Lancaster County regularly set cash bail without considering a person’s ability to pay, leading to the unconstitutional and unnecessary pretrial incarceration of hundreds of people every year.

Although the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure require MDJs to consider an extensive list of factors about an arrestee’s individual circumstances, including the person’s financial condition, when deciding conditions of release, the Lancaster MDJs named in this complaint regularly fail to consider any of these factors.

The complaint asks, among other remedies:

  • That Lancaster County provide counsel to indigent defendants at arraignment hearings
  • That the Lancaster County Prison stop executing orders to detain individuals on cash bail unless the MDJs comply with the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment and engage in a constitutionally adequate inquiry into the arrestee’s ability to satisfy any cash bail conditions.


Sara Rose, Nyssa Taylor, Ari Shapell, and Richard Ting of the ACLU of Pennsylvania

Date filed

April 25, 2022


United States Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania