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More than 80 state representatives ask Supreme Court to reverse course on pre-trial bail rules

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Dozens of state representatives have signed onto a letter asking Missouri’s highest court to reverse course on pre-trial release standards it set last year. 

The Missouri Supreme Court implemented new bond rules, that went into effect in July 2019, which urged judges to consider non-monetary conditions of release first, unless deemed necessary for the public’s safety or to ensure an alleged offender will show up to a scheduled court appearance.

State Rep. Justin Hill

These new rules were heavily criticized by a bevy of Republican lawmakers following an October shooting at a Kansas City, Kansas, bar that left four people dead. One of the suspects in the shooting had a history of run-ins with the law in Missouri and was granted a bond reduction and released just a month before the shooting. 

In the letter to the Missouri Supreme Court — and provided to The Missouri Times — 82 state representatives said the new rules have “placed a significant burden on all our courts.” Rep. Justin Hill, who championed the letter, told The Missouri Times the court needs to repeal the rules and come to the table to work with the legislature. 

“The Supreme Court should recognize that they went outside their authority” by implementing the rule changes, Hill said. “How more blatant can you get in violating the separation of powers?” 

The letter is expected to be delivered to the Supreme Court Thursday, just one day after Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice George W. Draper III called for a continued push for criminal justice reform in the legislature as part of his State of the Judiciary address. Specifically, Draper praised the legislature for making certain crimes eligible for expungement and allowing defendants to pursue diversion programs last year. 

“Many judges feel they no longer have the option to impose conditions like bail that encourage accused criminals to avoid re-offending while awaiting trial, and they are instead forced to engage in ‘catch-and-release,’ letting individuals go on recognizance with no conditions to hold them accountable,” Hill said. 

A spokesperson for the Missouri Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon. 

Read the letter here.