Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul appeals decision derailing bail reform in 64 counties

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Friday appealed to the state’s highest court to overturn a Kankakee County judge’s ruling earlier this week that partially derailed a new law abolishing cash bail.

The most controversial provision of the SAFE-T Act — the sweeping criminal justice reform bill signed almost two years ago by Gov. J.B. Pritzker — takes effect Sunday, promising to end the long-held system in which judges set dollar amounts that criminal defendants must pay to be released from jail ahead of trial.

That will be the case heading into 2023 in Cook, DuPage, Lake and dozens of other counties — but not in 64 others where prosecutors and sheriffs filed lawsuits to halt the bail reform.

Kankakee County Chief Judge Thomas W. Cunnington sided with them Wednesday, agreeing with their argument that the new law violates the separation of powers outlined in the state Constitution — that "the appropriateness of bail rests with the authority of the court and may not be determined by legislative fiat."


Raoul immediately said he’d ask the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse that decision, and his office filed the official paperwork for that Friday.

Raoul, a Chicago Democrat, maintains that the new bail provision will be effective in all 102 Illinois counties Sunday. But his office has acknowledged that — at least until the suit concludes — it’s up to judges in the counties that are party to the suit whether they set cash bail. That includes Will and McHenry counties, with others mostly downstate.

"Illinois residents in all counties should be aware that the circuit court’s decision has no effect on their ability to exercise their rights that are protected by the SAFE-T Act and the Illinois Constitution," Raoul said in a statement Wednesday.

Raoul’s office said they would request an expedited schedule "early next week" with the state Supreme Court. A court representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.