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Illinois Passes Pre-Trial Fairness Act, First State to Pass Such Legislation

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A bill that would end cash bail in Illinois was passed last Wednesday, spearheaded by the state’s Legislative Black Caucus.

What We Know:

  • The Pre-trial Fairness Act was passed last week and is currently awaiting Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature. Pritzker has previously expressed support for the bill, which would make Illinois the first state in the country to end all cash bail.
  • Across U.S. courtrooms, judges offer pre-trial release payments, or bond/bail, to incarcerated individuals which allows them to be released prior to their hearing. If the individual does not pay the bond, they remain in jail despite being legally innocent. This institution creates a classist and racist system of justice where the wealthy can pay their way out of incarceration while those who can’t afford it may even receive a harsher prison sentence.
  • As reported by The Guardian, Black, Latino, and indigenous people are detained pre-trial at significantly higher rates than people of other ethnicities. If given a money bail, Black people receive far higher bail than all other ethnic and racial groups and are less likely to be able to post the bail amount. The bail system consists of a thoughtless price usually set by a judge in a matter of seconds, allowing people with almost identical charges to be assigned bails that differ by tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Briana Payton, a policy analyst for the Chicago Community Bond Fund, tells The Daily Northwestern that the system, “is profoundly unjust. It essentially puts a price tag on someone’s freedom.” She adds that defendants incarcerated before their trial could also lose housing, employment, or custody over children.
  • Despite the tremendous movement toward justice reform, the bill faces a ton of backlash. More than 112,000 people have signed a petition opposing the bill, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The Illinois State’s Attorneys Association put out a statement saying the bill has provisions that are “deeply problematic and will only result in further significant increases in violent crime, undermine public safety, and deny justice to crime victims.”

After being signed, the bill will be implemented over the course of two years, creating a new system that will hopefully encourage other states to follow suit and work towards criminal justice reform across the nation.

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Crime

DOJ Drops Criminal Investigation and Lawsuit Against John Bolton for 2020 Tell-All Book

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The Department of Justice drops their criminal investigation and lawsuit against John Bolton for his 2020 tell-all book.

What We Know:

  • Last year Bolton, former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, released a tell-all book titled, The Room Where It Happened. The DOJ under Trump’s administration sued Bolton for allegedly publishing classified information and failing to complete the pre-publication review.
  • The book gave a behind-the-scenes look into Trump’s handling of foreign affairs, like asking China’s President Xi Jinping to help with his re-election campaign. The DOJ wanted Bolton to halt the book’s production and give all funds received from copies already sold to them.
  • Despite the lawsuit and criminal investigation, Bolton went through with releasing the book ahead of the 2020 election after Ellen Knight, a White House National Security Council official, released a statement that his book no longer included confidential information. According to AP, Knight stated that the Trump administration “exerted political pressure to block the book” and used “an unusual process of delay tactics and legal maneuverings.” After failing to stop the book’s publication, the DOJ opened a criminal investigation and subpoenaed Bolton’s publisher and literary agent for their communication records.
  • President Joe Biden’s DOJ dropped the year-long investigation and lawsuit after determining that it was a way for the Trump administration to use government power to suppress former pro-Trump officials who were now anti-Trump.
  • Charles J. Cooper, Bolton’s lawyer, stated, “we are very pleased that the Department of Justice has dismissed with prejudice its civil lawsuit against Ambassador Bolton and has terminated grand jury proceedings. We argued from the outset that neither action was justifiable, because they were initiated only as a result of President Trump’s politically motivated order to prevent publication of the Ambassador’s book before the 2020 election.”
  • Bolton had recently received approval from a federal judge that he could begin deposing those who worked under Trump. They would have had to testify about how Trump forced them to go after Bolton and how his book was handled.
  • Along with dropping the lawsuit, the DOJ informed Bolton that they intend to receive no money from the books he sold, nor will they attempt to sue him again over his book. Bolton has claimed that if he releases another book, he will turn over his information to be checked for national security violations.

Advisors of the Biden administration feel like the dropping of this lawsuit was for the best, and the administration should instead set its sights towards the pre-publication review process.

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Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson for Federal Appeals Court

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On Monday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

What We Know:

  • With a Senate vote of 53-44, Jackson was confirmed and now holds the appeals court seat that former U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland held. She became a federal judge in Washington DC in 2013 and was appointed by former President Barack Obama.
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) all joined Democrats in voting yes in Jackson’s vote. Graham stated, “I think she’s qualified. I think I try to be somewhat consistent here. She has a different philosophy than I do.” Christopher Kang, the chief counsel for Demand Justice, believes that Jackson’s experience makes her the perfect type of judge and is the blueprint for the type of judges the Senate should keep confirming.

“Judge Jackson’s confirmation will mark the beginning of a new era for a court system that Trump and McConnell have stacked in favor of the rich and powerful,” said Kang.

  • Jackson’s most popular case is her 2019 opinion ruling that former White House counsel Don McGahn had to testify in the congressional investigation into former President Donald Trump and Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. McGahn believed he had immunity in the case and didn’t have to participate in his congressional subpoena because he was under Trump.
  • Jackson is a top pick for the Supreme Court if a vacancy appears while President Joe Biden is in office. Biden has made it one of his missions to make a Black woman a Supreme Court justice if the chance arises. Many believe Jackson is a shoo-in for a vacancy because she is 50-years-old, a Black woman, and has a good court record. Jackson also has served as a federal public defender and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.
  • Many Democrats are hoping that Breyer retires by the end of the Supreme Court term so that Biden can nominate his pick for his seat. Breyer has served on the Supreme Court for 27 years and was nominated by former President Bill Clinton. For now, Democrats hold a slight led of control in the Senate, but with 2022 midterms coming up, some feel as if they may lose that control.
  • In an interview with CNN, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said she believes Breyer should retire at the end of the term. She stated that she would have to think about it more, but she’s “inclined to say yes.” If Breyer retires and Biden’s liberal choice is confirmed, the Supreme Court will continue to have three left-leaning Supreme Court justices in a majority right-leaning court. Minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell has claimed that he will not confirm Biden’s pick if Republicans retain the majority after the 2022 elections.

“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880’s to find the last time a vacancy was filled…I think it’s highly unlikely. I don’t think either party if it controlled, if it were different from the president, would confirm a Supreme Court nominee in the middle of an election,” said McConnell.

Jackson is the first of Biden’s appeal court nominees to be confirmed and comes just after his nominee Zahid Quraishi was confirmed as a judge for the district court in New Jersey. Biden wants to add more diversity and liberal thinking judges to the appeals court and federal level courts to help balance out the conservative judges confirmed at the end of Trump’s presidency.

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Justice

Mayor Tishaura Jones Wants to Reimagine Policing in St. Louis

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Mayor Tishaura Jones recently addressed a crowd during the opening of a new woman’s center in St. Louis.

What We Know:

  • During her speech at the opening of the facility, Jones said, ” there are segments of the population who are more deeply affected by societal norms.” She believes that the problem must be approached “with an eye towards equity.” Jones believes that St. Louis must focus on its most vulnerable populations to address core problems first.
  • Jones took office on April 20th, and she is the first Black woman to win the seat. Jones is among elected leaders coming into power that is in favor of police reform. This comes as Congress looks to craft bipartisan legislation aimed to tackle police reform. Jones intends to challenge St. Louis’ leaders, residents, police unions, and community activists to rethink what a safe city means.
  • In her speech, Jones mentions that African-Americans were leaving St. Louis at a higher rate than any other race. Jones faces pushback from St. Louis City Hall and the police union. The groups remain skeptical of her vision, which intends to diminish their resources. She also faces criticism from restless activists who have been advocating for a radical change instead of small reforms.
  • Jones is among the first class of progressing Democratic candidates who ran on promises to end cash bail, curtail mass incarceration and hold police accountable. Tory Russell, the International Black Freedom Alliance founder, says he’s worried about the Obama effect in regards to Jones. He notes that Obama’s historic presidency paralleled some of the most high-profile police shootings in American history. Russell believes Jones’s historic rise must come second to the movement’s goals.

Jones’s first action when she took office was to focus on public safety reform.

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