Nov 30, 2015 ACLU alleges a Scott County, MS, court pattern of deprivation of individualized bail hearings and denial of indigent counsel before indictment
In December 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amended federal lawsuit alleging a Scott County, Mississippi, court pattern of depriving individualized bail hearings and denial of indigent counsel before indictment. As a result, presumed-innocent criminal defendants languished in jail without having their individualized circumstances sufficiently considered in setting their bond, and denied their Sixth Amendment Constitutional guarantee to a lawyer for those too poor to pay for their own counsel. The allegations in the Amended Complaint are beyond troubling.
The ACLU’s lawsuit was filed against three judges, the county prosecutor and Scott County. Two months ago, the court dismissed the case (see the court’s order) on procedural grounds as to all defendants but Scott County, and several counts against Scott County, under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), which generally directs federal courts to abstain from considering lawsuits involving issues that can be raised in related pending state-level litigation.
I have not yet checked the status of any state court continuation of these ACLU claims. On November 27, 2015, the ACLU’s lead counsel in the case talked in terms of still pursuing the litigation.
We cannot allow judges to violate their obligation to conduct Constitutional bail hearings and to timely appoint indigent counsel to criminal defendants. Thanks to the ACLU and its lawyer team for pursuing this case.