ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A federal lawsuit filed on Friday targets the new Supreme Court rules that changed how judges set bond for accused criminals awaiting trial.
Right now, people are being held in jail without the option to bond out until they see a judge.
The suit argues that’s unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court provided judges with rules, which went into effect on July 1, to guide them in setting bail following a constitutional amendment voters passed in November.
“They went too far,” attorney Blair Dunn said.
Dunn, representing clients including lawmakers and the Bail Bond Association in a lawsuit filed Friday against the Supreme Court, said it was a job for the Legislature, not the Supreme Court.
“They’re basically violating the separation of powers in the state,” Dunn said.
The rules require judges to consider bond as a last resort, to first consider releasing someone on their own recognizance if they’re not a flight risk.
The lawsuit said plaintiffs are fine with the idea of reducing the number of people kept in jail simply because they can’t pay bail. However, it said if someone wants to bond out, they should have the option, like Darlene Collins.
Collins is a plaintiff in the suit.
Police arrested the 61-year-old for trying to run over her granddaughter in an SUV.
Her attorney said she has mental and physical health issues, and her family wanted to bond her out but couldn’t do anything until she saw a judge, which didn’t happen for days.
“She was deprived of the opportunity to get out despite her health conditions, to seek the medical attention she needed,” Dunn said.
The lawsuit also mentions the “total devastation” of bail bond businesses.
In response to questions regarding the motive behind the lawsuit, Bail Bond Association President Gerald Madrid said, “Why shouldn’t we fight to defend our industry? This is our livelihood. This is what we do. We’re concerned with crime in the community. We’re concerned with people’s rights to bail and this is our business, and we’re not ashamed of it.”
He said employees are getting laid off across the state and bail bond companies are shutting down.
He said the cost of that is crime in the community.
KRQE News 13 contacted the Administrative Office of the Courts, but they wouldn’t comment on the merits of the lawsuit, saying courts exist to resolve these kinds of disputes.