The MacArthur Justice Center is pursuing a federal class action lawsuit against Orleans Magistrate Judge Harry E. Cantrell challenging his practice of setting high bail amounts without any consideration of the person’s ability to pay or alternative no-cost conditions of release. Judge Cantrell consistently sets a $2,500 minimum secured money bond, regardless of the facts of the particular case or the circumstances surrounding the arrestee. He also refuses to entertain arguments for a lower financial condition of release, informing defense attorneys not to even attempt them.
The suit also calls out Judge Cantrell’s repeated insistence on using commercial bond companies over cash payments during bond proceedings. A cash payment would be refunded at the conclusion of the defendant’s case. A commercial bail company, however, requires a non-reimbursable fee, a portion of which goes to the court’s General Fund – revenue Cantrell and other judges’ control.
In August 2019, we had a major win in the Fifth Circuit, which upheld the District Court’s common-sense opinion that it is unconstitutional for a court that sets bail to rely on bail fees to fund its own existence.
Magistrate Cantrell will now have to change his practices to meet the minimum Constitutional standards outlined by the Federal Court.