Brinson Askew Berry team of Andy Davis, Sam Lucas and Frank Beacham earned a win in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for the City of Calhoun in a case challenging the city’s Standing Bail Order policy for misdemeanors.
The federal appeals court upheld Calhoun's policy on bail for misdemeanor offenses which clears the way for resolution of a lawsuit dating back three years.
"We're still evaluating what it means for the portion of the case that's left, but we're pleased the Court of Appeals found the Standing Bail Order entirely constitutional," Davis told the Rome News-Tribune.
The case, Walker v. Calhoun, has garnered national attention due to its potential to set precedent on Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process and equal protection for indigent defendants.
Calhoun officials hired the Rome firm in 2015 to defend against a class action suit brought by the Southern Center for Human Rights on behalf of Maurice Walker, who spent six days in jail awaiting a hearing because he couldn't afford to post a $160 bond.
At that time, the city had a fixed bail schedule for traffic and misdemeanor offenses. Those who could pay were immediately released, those who couldn't were held for their court date. After the lawsuit was filed, the city adopted a Standing Bail Order that set bond amounts according to the offense. It also guaranteed a hearing within 48 hours for indigent defendants asking to be released on their own recognizance.
The SCHR won injunctions against both policies as the case wended its way through the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Each time, Calhoun appealed.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2 to 1 Wednesday that the first policy is unconstitutional, but the Standing Bail Order is not.
Davis said the case now moves back to the district court, where Walker is seeking damages for the time he spent in jail.