Advocacy update May 3, 2022

Advocacy update May 3, 2022

Advocacy update May 3, 2022 150 150 Episcopalians in Connection
Bail Reform Lobby Day at the Ohio Statehouse May 4

A broad coalition of Ohio civil rights groups including ALCU Ohio invite you to join a day of advocacy for bail reform bills that would emphasize non-monetary protections for public safety – like restraining orders or pre-trial detention –  rather than cash bail, which disproportionately burdens poor people and their families. Meanwhile, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and some legislators have introduced a constitutional amendment bill, which is advancing rapidly in the Criminal Justice Committee, that would require judges to consider the threat posed by the accused in setting bail.

Lobby Day begins at Trinity Church on Capitol Square at 9 a.m. You can register for the Bail Reform Advocacy Day here and read more about the dueling reforms below.

  • Bail battle escalates conflict between Republican leaders and Ohio Supreme Court

    Debby Stokes-Wayne, a member of the Diocese’s Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team, recently shared the news of Ohio’s bail reform bills HB 315 and SB 182 in this post. These bills would reduce the burden of pre-trial detention on poor people by requiring courts to make a pretrial-release decision within 24 hours. Any conditions on release must be non-monetary, such as a restraining order, and fit the danger the court determines that the defendant poses, such as domestic violence. If the court sets bond as a condition of release, the amount must be based on a determination of the accused person’s ability to pay.

    But, in response to an Ohio Supreme Court 4-3 decision supporting a lower court’s ruling that the bond set for a Cincinnati murder suspect was too high, Republicans have introduced a proposed constitutional amendment bill, HB 607, that would require Ohio judges to consider criminal suspects’ threat to public safety when setting bail amounts. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost supports HB 607. You can contact the committee with your views by clicking on the pictures of each member at this link to get their contact information: https://www.ohiohouse.gov/committees/criminal-justice

    Supporters of bail reform point out that cash bail does nothing to protect public safety. A wealthy man could walk out of jail after posting bail and murder his wife.

    The proposed constitutional amendment – opposed both by the ACLU and the conservative Buckeye institute – is yet another battle between the Republican majority in the Ohio Legislature and the Ohio Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, has joined the three Democrats in several rulings including those finding four different sets of legislative maps unconstitutional. The Ohio Supreme Court decision affirmed that judges can protect public safety by setting other requirements, such as electronic monitoring and restraining orders, which were imposed by the lower court on the Cincinnati defendant.

    Laura Bischoff quoted the majority opinion in her March 29 article in the Columbus Dispatch: “Public safety, although of the utmost importance, is not a factor relevant to the calculation of the bail amount,” the opinion says. “A court may not impose excessive bail for the purpose of keeping an accused in jail.”

    “The ACLU of Ohio and the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank, both expressed concerns about proposed constitutional amendment,” she continued. “Buckeye Institute President Robert Alt called it a step in the wrong direction.

    ‘Ability to pay does not equate to public safety. If an individual is a threat to society, we should be giving judges the authority and the discretion to detain them pre-trial. We shouldn’t simply be increasing the price that they have to pay,’ Alt said.

    “ACLU of Ohio lobbyist Gary Daniels said lawmakers should pass two other bail reform bills that would allow courts to make decisions based on flight risks or potential danger to the community, instead of how much money the accused has. ’These bills give judges and prosecutors the tools they need to protect public safety while honoring the presumption of innocence guaranteed to all of us,’ he said.”

    HB 315 and SB 182 would mitigate the financial burden of bail and pretrial detention (which can cause poor people to lose their jobs and housing) on people who can’t afford to pay bail.  The bills preserve Ohio’s process through which judges can keep the accused in jail if they pose a risk of violence. Here’s an overview of the bail reform prepared by the Ohio Judicial Conference.

Justice Alito’s draft ruling revoking Roe v Wade – wider implications

On May 2, Politico published a leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v Wade. In the Read More section, I’ve included quotes from American historian Heather Cox Richardson on the implications of this case for a wider array of rights that have been protected by the Federal Government for decades. As drafted, this decision joins a series of Supreme Court rulings that curtail the federal role in protecting rights for every American in every state. Equality in access to the vote, marriage, and even contraception are being referred by the Supreme Court to the political branch, with the paralysis of Congress increasingly leaving the field open to state legislatures. Where you live will determine your rights.

  • Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of American history at Boston College, has been charting the huge ideological battles of our current politics in the context of two centuries of struggle over who is protected or excluded the foundational rights of American democracy. Here are quotes from her May 3 “Letters from an American” blog:

    “Tonight, news broke of a leaked draft of what appears to be Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s majority decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing access to abortion as a constitutional right.

    “That news is an alarm like the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford decision declaring both that Black Americans had no rights that a white man was bound to respect and that Congress had no power to prohibit human enslavement in the territories. The Dred Scott decision left the question of enslavement not to the national majority, which wanted to prohibit it from western lands, but to state and territorial legislatures that limited voting to white men.

    “Its attack on federal protection of civil rights applies not just to abortion, but to all the protections put in place since World War II: the right to use birth control, marry whomever you wish, live in desegregated spaces, and so on…

    “The draft opinion says the state legislatures are the true heart of our democracy and that they alone should determine abortion laws in the states. But Republican-dominated legislatures have also curtailed the right to vote. When Democrats in Congress tried to protect voting rights, Senate Republicans killed it with the filibuster.

    “Tonight’s news is an alarm like the 1857 Dred Scott decision, which gave a few white men who controlled state legislatures power over the American majority.” You can subscribe to “Letters from an American” here.

Redistricting Commission to meet May 4, one day before deadline set by Ohio Supreme Court

Weeks after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the fourth state legislative district maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, the Commission will finally meet again, the afternoon before the Court’s deadline to submit a new plan.

The two Democrats on the Commission have been urging it to schedule a meeting, but were blocked by rules requiring either both chairs or three Commissioners to meet. State Auditor Stuart Faber, a Republican, finally joined the two Democrats last week in voting to meet, but House Majority Leader Bob Cupp cited the May 3 primary, which is overseen by fellow commissioner Secretary of State Frank LaRose, as a reason for delaying it until May 4. Faber urged the Commission to request an extension to May 13.

As of May 3, I haven’t seen any news on whether the Commission will ask independent map-drawing consultants – one Republican and one Democrat – who had almost completed a set of maps (at a cost to taxpayers of $98,000) to return to finish it. The Republican legislative leaders have no incentive to adopt a new plan because a panel of federal judges have said that the third plan, previously found by the Ohio Supreme Court to unconstitutionally favor their party – would be used for the state house and senate districts if the Commission fails to complete a constitutionally- compliant plan. (Read more from the Dayton Daily News). The impasse means that state house and senate candidates are not on this month’s ballot, and the state will have to hold a second primary at an estimated cost of $20 million to taxpayers.

Advocacy briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming, and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team. Connect with her at arielmillerwriter@gmail.com