The Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, the Youth Art Self Empowerment Project, and individual plaintiffs v. Arraignment Court Magistrates of First Judicial District

A class action complaint and petition for a Writ of Mandamus against the Philadelphia Arraignment Court Magistrates Francis Bernard, Jane Rice, Sheila Bedford, Kevin Devlin, James O’Brien, and Robert Stack for failing to obey the commonwealth's Rules of Criminal Procedure by relying too heavily on money bail.

Court/Assoc.: Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

Attorneys/Firms: Mary Catherine Roper and Nyssa Taylor of the ACLU of Pennsylvania; David Gersch and Sally Pei of Arnold & Porter LLP

On March 12, 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and the law firm of Arnold & Porter filed a lawsuit demanding an end to illegal bail practices in Philadelphia. The suit asks that Philadelphia arraignment court magistrates follow the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure when setting bail. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, the Youth Art & Self Empowerment Project and ten individuals currently incarcerated on cash bail they cannot afford.

The Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure were created to protect the presumption of innocence, encourage pretrial release without cash bail and limit pretrial detention. ACLU-PA volunteers have observed more than 2,000 arraignment hearings, and one thing is clear: the arraignment court magistrates aren’t following their own rules when it comes to setting bail.

This lawsuit aims to ensure fair treatment of all individuals in Philadelphia arraignment hearings based on the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure, regardless of how much money they have.  

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