Today, the ACLU, ACLU-TN, Civil Rights Corps, and Choosing Justice Initiative sent a letter to Davidson’s County Criminal Court Judges expressing their concern with Davidson County Criminal Court Local Rule of Practice for Bail Bonds 10(B), which “requires anyone who posts a cash bond to agree that the deposit will be subject to garnishments for fines, court costs, and restitution.”
This rule is illegal and its enforcement violates the fundamental constitutional rights of those who seek to pay cash bail on behalf of themselves and others. The coalition has requested that the judges cease to enforce this rule effective immediately.
As an organization directly impacted by this local rule, the Nashville Community Bail Fund fully supports the coalition’s request. Prior to May 2019, the NCBF was exempt from the rule; however, a recent order from the six Criminal Court Judges arbitrarily removed that exemption. The NCBF will now be responsible for any court costs, fines, fees, and/or restitution assessed against our participants. Effectively, the judges’ decision will deplete the NCBF’s funds until it can no longer operate. Since 2016, we have freed nearly 1,000 people who could not otherwise afford their bail. If we shut down, how many individuals will be forced to sit in a cage until their case ends, subjecting them to the devastating consequences of incarceration solely because they don’t have wealth?
Nashville’s money bail system is already a burden on our city’s poor; this local rule increases that burden for an unjust purpose. Since our participants already cannot afford bail, they certainly cannot afford to surrender a portion of that bail to bankroll our Criminal Court Judges’ interests. Overturning the rule is a crucial step toward bail reform in Nashville. We hope that one day the Nashville Community Bail Fund will cease to operate--not as the result of an illegal rule, but because significant reform has rendered it unnecessary.