Class Action Lawsuit Challenges Sheriff Tom Dart’s Unlawful Detention of People Ordered Released Pretrial by Cook County Judges

Attorneys for people held in Cook County Jail even after their bonds were paid are challenging the Sheriff’s policy in federal court and also seeking to hold Dart in contempt in state court for violating the court’s orders to release people on electronic monitoring.

A class action lawsuit was filed late in the day on Monday, February 26, 2018 on behalf of people currently being unconstitutionally detained under Dart’s newly announced “review” policy for defendants already cleared for release by Cook County bond court Judges. Last week, Dart announced the implementation of unilateral reviews for people whose bond conditions he finds unsatisfactory in recent interviews with the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune. Under this practice, Sheriff’s Office employees are detaining individuals even after their bonds have been posted or they are otherwise eligible for release in order to conduct additional discretionary reviews of their current charges and background.

“These additional reviews and the resulting prolonged detention, without legal justification, are blatant violations of accused people’s constitutional right to release after a bond has been set by a judge and paid. Additionally, Dart lacks authority to conduct these so-called ‘administrative reviews,’ and his unilateral decision to detain certain individuals by refusing to execute a binding judicial order violates the separation of powers,” said attorney Sara Garber of Thedford Garber Law, the lead attorney on the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs are also seeking review of Dart’s actions in front of Cook County criminal court judges who ordered the defendants released, arguing that Dart should be held in contempt for refusal to release people as ordered.

“Sheriff Dart is violating the constitutional rights of my clients to have bail set by a judge. I will do everything in my legal power to stop the Sheriff from usurping the power of the judiciary and the other stakeholders who presented evidence at a lawful bail hearing,” said Amy Campanelli, Cook County Public Defender.

One person subject to review was in the Sheriff’s custody for more than 80 hours after her bond was paid by Chicago Community Bond Fund. As admitted by Dart’s chief policy officer, Cara Smith, at least nine people who were already cleared for release by judges were detained over the weekend, and denied release, some of them despite the fact that their bonds had already been paid.

“Tom Dart is a jailer, not a jurist. When a law enforcement official attempts to exercise powers beyond his authority, it poses a grave threat to the rule of law, the very foundation of our constitutional democracy,” said Locke Bowman, Executive Director of the The Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center.

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