Bar News - January 18, 2017|
Interbranch Council Considering Bail Reform
In New Hampshire, indigent pretrial defendants routinely sit in jail, unable to post cash bail amounts that for others are easily obtainable. That’s the widely accepted view of those who have been studying the issue of cash bail practice for the past six months as part of the state’s interdisciplinary Interbranch Criminal and Juvenile Justice Council (ICJJC).
“New Hampshire has a very good bail statute, but I think most people recognize that we aren’t being true to the bail statute in many cases, because there are a lot of people sitting in jail for want of just a few thousand dollars, or less in some cases, who really aren’t a danger or a risk of flight,” prominent defense attorney and ICJJC member Cathy Green said recently.
The ICJJC, chaired by NH Superior Court Chief Justice Tina Nadeau, includes representatives from all branches of government, prosecution, the defense bar, jails and other stakeholders. The ICJJC recently created a subcommittee to examine reports and research about cash bail practices and recommend reforms for New Hampshire, says Green, who adds that change could potentially be implemented without legislation.
Bar News this month features a special focus on criminal law, and in particular, the issue of setting bail in criminal cases. NH Superior Court Judge William Delker describes the judge’s view of setting bail, the high stakes and the factors that must be considered, in this month’s installment of “Bench Notes,” a Bar News column by state court judges.
Former state and federal public defender Behzad Mirhashem, who now heads the criminal practice clinic at UNH Law, writes about the differences between state and federal bail practice and other jurisdictions around the country that have already instituted bail reform.