Bail Agents Show Solidarity in San Francisco – Update on Buffin v. San Francisco

Below is a statement from Jeff Clayton, Policy Director for the American Bail Coalition, on the latest results of the US District Court hearing on Buffin v. San Francisco.

January 26, 2016
Statement on Motions Hearing, Buffin

Today, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California conducted a hearing on several motions filed in Buffin v. San Francisco, a lawsuit challenging the use of money bail schedules and by extension the American Bail System. In the hearing, Judge Gonzalez Rogers rejected the Plaintiffs’ initial filings because the documents were insufficient in as much they failed to state a claim which would warrant granting any relief whatsoever.

In rejecting the claims made by the Plaintiffs as insufficient, Judge Gonzalez Rogers granted the City of San Francisco’s motion for a more definite statement of matters contained in the complaint, and required the Plaintiffs to file a new complaint within 30 days or otherwise face dismissal.

Judge Gonzalez Rogers also denied Plaintiffs’ motions both for preliminary injunction and class certification. Both were denied due to the complete lack of merit in the Plaintiffs’ initial complaint. She also granted the State of California’s motion to dismiss the State as a defendant based on the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

In a clear expression of frustration, Judge Gonzalez Rogers pressed the Plaintiffs’ attorneys on their theory of the case, continually saying she understood the big picture argument that Plaintiffs were attempting to make but did not understand the legal analysis that would allow them to get the relief they were seeking. Due to the general and unclear theory being advanced by the Plaintiffs, at one point the Judge indicated she did not think there was a valid legal theory upon which relief could be granted, and even went as far as to inquire of Plaintiffs’ counsel whether they had ever practiced criminal law in California or understood how the California criminal court system functioned.

In a show of solidarity, representatives from the American Bail Coalition, California Bail Agents Association, and the Golden State Bail Association attended the hearing together. The California Bail Agents Association’s motion to intervene was denied, but it was only denied because it was premature—premature because the Judge said the initial complaint was so deficient that there was presently no live controversy in which CBAA’s attorneys might engage. CBAA’s motion is still pending, but will only be taken up by the Court if Plaintiffs submit a new complaint that overcomes the deficiencies indicated by Judge and which survives a motion to dismiss.

While this is not the end of this case, today’s hearing is a win because the Plaintiffs’ legal theory finally met its first test on the merits, which it did not survive.

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