Federal judge shoots down challenge to San Francisco's bail system

TV’s Beth Chapman, of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” fame, is using her celebrity status to argue against a lawsuit seeking to dismantle San Francisco’s bail system. Chapman argues the legal challenge would lead to more criminals on the streets, but after what a judge said in court on Tuesday, she has reason to be happy.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two women who didn’t have money to make bail by Equal Justice Under Law— a Washington D.C. civil rights group. The suit claims poor San Francisco inmates are focused to sit in jail because they can’t afford bail, yet wealthy arrestees “purchase their freedom”.

They say San Francisco’s bail system is unconstitutional.

The case came before a federal judge in an Oakland courtroom were cameras were not allowed.

“The sole criterion determining whether a pretrial arrestee walks free or sits in jail is the amount of money he or she has,” says Phil Tefeyan, an attorney with Equal Justice Under Law.

The group wants the suit certified as class action.

But Chapman, Duane “Dog’s” wife, says the suit, if successful will make it easier on criminals, which is unfair to crime victims.

“The victims have not been considered here,” Chapman says. “People who have just been beaten by someone and they finally got their abuser to be put in jail. They don’t need that guy to come back out in 10 minutes with no repercussion, no deterrent, no one looking at them, no one taking care of them.

The plaintiffs filed suit with the help of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. Jeff Adachi, the public defender, filed a court declaration in support of the suit saying, “A fair system of pretrial justice would not rely on monetary conditions, as such conditions penalize arrestees solely based on their wealth status.”

However, the judge had some strong words for the plaintiff’s attorneys, saying they don’t seem to have a legal leg to stand on.

The judge made comments like, “I don’t see it here,” and “Pontificating is not legal analysis.”

The judge denied the case class-action status, essentially telling the plaintiffs to go back to the drawing board and to file a new lawsuit if they could back it up.