December 2, 2022

Munger, Tolles & Olson Files Lawsuit Challenging Los Angeles County’s Bail Schedule Policy

Munger, Tolles & Olson and co-counsel have filed a class action lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County and their law enforcement agencies challenging the constitutionality of the county’s bail schedule policy.

Filed in conjunction with Public Justice, Civil Rights Corps, Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP and Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman & Zeldes LLP, the lawsuit seeks to challenge the county’s practice of jailing individuals for days before arraignment solely because they are unable to pay the monetary amounts set by the county’s uniform bail schedules.

The lawsuit is brought by a group of plaintiffs who spent multiple days in jail before being arraigned solely because they and their families were unable to afford cash bail. For many of those plaintiffs, the charges on which they were booked were either reduced to misdemeanors or dropped entirely, and they were released after being detained for nearly a week without appointed counsel and without an opportunity to be heard by a judge. The lawsuit also includes claims by a group of clergy members challenging the unconstitutional use of their taxes to fund the bail schedules.

The county’s bail schedules are established by a committee of Los Angeles County Superior judges and enacted by arresting agencies. The schedules set a fixed dollar amount each arrested individual must pay to be released from custody and are set based on the charges specified by the arresting officer without oversight from an attorney or judicial officer.

“The bail system in Los Angeles County treats people differently based on how much money they have in their bank account,” said Firm Chair Brad Brian. “If two people are arrested for the same alleged crime, a person who has money can pay to immediately go free, while someone without the same resources is confined in a jail cell for days before they get a lawyer or see a judge. The result is that on any given day, instead of going to work or being with their families, hundreds of people remain in jail solely because of poverty. This needless deprivation of liberty also makes us all less safe because it costs people jobs and housing, and destabilizes their lives. Our case seeks to end this violation of constitutional rights.”

The Munger, Tolles & Olson team also includes partners Rohit Singla and Victoria Degtyareva, and associates Rowley Rice, Tiana Baheri and Brianne Holland-Stergar.

Read more about lawsuit.

About Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP

Contributing to the community through pro bono work and other forms of volunteerism is a core tenet of the culture at Munger, Tolles & Olson. The firm was one of the charter signatories to the American Bar Association’s pro bono challenge and consistently devotes more than three percent of all attorney time to delivering needed pro bono legal assistance. We are proud to be one of the select group of firms to have received the ABA’s coveted Pro Bono Publico Award.

Learn more about MTO’s pro bono activities.