On October 28, 2015, arrestees in San Francisco who were unable to afford the bond set by the fixed “bail schedule” filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs sued the City and County of San Francisco and the State of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. The plaintiffs, represented by Equal Justice Under Law, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, damages suffered as a result of defendants’ conduct, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs claimed that San Francisco’s wealth-based pretrial detention scheme violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Constitution. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that by adhering to the generic “bond” schedule set by state law, San Francisco’s system jailed some of its poorest residents prior to a first court appearance solely because they couldn't pay an arbitrary amount of money.
It was the policy and practice of the City and County of San Francisco to refuse to release arrestees from jail unless they paid a generic “bond” amount. That amount was determined by a fixed “bail schedule” set by San Francisco under direction of state law. Because this sum was set by reference to the alleged offense of arrest, no individualized factors are considered, and anyone who couldn't afford to pay was held in jail for at least two days before any court appearance.
On February 1, 2016, the court (Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers) issued an order granting the State’s motion to dismiss under sovereign immunity, denying the City’s motion to dismiss, granting the City’s motion for a more definite statement, denying without prejudice the plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction and to certify class, and denying proposed intervenor California Bail Agents Association’s motion to intervene as premature. Unable to identify the precise legal challenge being made by plaintiffs as well as the precise relief they seek against the City (especially in light of the State being dismissed), the court found that the City’s motion for a more definite statement was warranted. The court further determined that the plaintiffs’ motions for preliminary injunction and class certification could not be properly ruled on without a clearly articulated legal theory in the complaint.
On February 5, 2016, the defendants filed a notice of pendency of other action regarding Gary Wayne Welchen v. Kamala Harris & County of Sacramento
, No. 2:16-cv-00185-TLN-KJN, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California on January 29, 2016. The claims were similar or identical to those asserted in this case. The plaintiff in that case, who sought certification of a class, contended that Sacramento’s bail schedule, set by the judges of the Superior Court as required by California law, violated his constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.
As of February 11, 2016, litigation is ongoing. Katrina Fetsch - 02/08/2016