The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida is filing a lawsuit against Leon County Circuit Court Clerk Gwendolyn Marshall on behalf of the Tallahassee Bail Fund for excessive bail, excessive fines and due process.
The lawsuit challenges a statute that “improperly confiscates charitable organizations’ money to punish them for helping accused persons access their freedom.”
The 15-page complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee.
The ACLU of Florida says Marshall’s enforcement of Florida Statute 903.286 wrongfully takes away charitable organizations’ money to “punish them for helping accused persons access their freedom.”
“Clerk Marshall’s policy particularly harms people charged with relatively minor charges who cannot afford to purchase a professional bond,” the complaint states.
According to the Monday complaint, Marshall’s enforcement of the statute violates the Eighth Amendment by allowing clerks to “use cash bail to impose criminal penalties on innocent parties, such as bail funds, which deprives them of the money that makes their operation possible.”
“The enforcement of this statute is yet another unprecedented attack on bail funds,” said ACLU of Florida Staff Attorney Jerry Edwards.
“Wealth-based incarceration in the name of cash bail does not make communities safer, it lines the pockets of government and private interests. While we wait for the Leon County Clerk of the Circuit Court to enact key systemic change, it’s important to continue to support groups like the Tallahassee Bail Fund, not place undue burden on them.”
The Tallahassee Bail Fund posts cash appearance bonds to pay for an arrested person’s release from jail, using public donations.
“We are grateful for the ACLU of Florida’s legal support in helping interrupt a crippling practice of court fines and fees that, on top of cash bail, makes the price tag of freedom untenable for us and families across Leon County,” said Tallahassee Bail Fund co-founder Hannah Schwadron.
“For a group working every day to get people out of cages and home to their loved ones, this justice effort is a beacon of light and a lifeline.”
The Tallahassee Bail Fund is asking the court to declare the statute unconstitutional and bar Marshall from enforcing it.