Several Judicial positions are up for election on August 4th, 2022. A brief questionnaire was sent out to all candidates for them to complete so people can learn more before heading out the polls. All judicial candidates for whom we could locate contact information were provided the same three questions and asked to respond with no more than 100 words per question by July 22, 2022. Those who did not return their responses by the deadline are marked as “No Response.” View their responses here and keep reading to learn more about the JSA’s Judicial Platform!
Justice & Safety Alliance Judicial Platform
Shelby County needs judges who are equitable, ethical, transparent, accountable, and who recognize the harms of over-incarceration. Our community is in the midst of an incarceration crisis, and we cannot punish or incarcerate our way out of systemic inequality. Instead, our local judges should be leaders in reform efforts that make Shelby County safer by redirecting resources to alternatives to incarceration, including diversion, treatment, and supportive housing. By pledging to adopt the following policies, our judges can act to keep all our residents safe.
Pretrial Release and Bail
- Recognizing that money bail is a major driver of incarceration, and discriminatory against people with fewer financial means, commit to a default presumption of recognizance release in all cases without statutory conditions requirements.
- Hold open, fair, contested hearings at which conditions of release are considered, imposing only the least restrictive conditions necessary to assure the individual’s future court appearance.
- Hold the government to its burden to justify impositions on pretrial liberty, including any amount of bail or conditions beyond recognizance release.
- Only impose bail or other conditions orders in amounts that the individual can afford.
- Impose unaffordable bail only in rare circumstances, in which clear and convincing evidence shows that nothing short of pretrial detention will reasonably assure the safety of the public or prevent willful flight.
- Embrace a goal of at least a 90% pretrial release rate across all cases.
- Regularly review bail decisions to ensure people are not incarcerated solely due to their inability to pay unless their detention is rigorously justified by findings and law.
- Ensure that any conditions imposed on a person’s pretrial release are the least restrictive necessary, and tailored to their individual case (i.e. no blanket conditions such as drug testing, unless required by statute).
- Work closely with pretrial services to set people up for success on release, identifying supports rather than punishments
- Commit to taking a person’s individual circumstances (e.g., mental and physical health, past trauma, socio-economic status) into account when deciding any criminal sentence.
- Commit to imposing non-carceral sentences in as many cases as possible, particularly non-violent cases, misdemeanors, and first convictions.
- Use discretion to sentence individuals to probation instead of prison as much as possible.
- Consider supports and tools that an individual will need in order to reintegrate back into the community at the conclusion of their sentence. Support efforts to incorporate skills training and other educational programs in jails and prisons.
- Commit to not punishing individuals for exercising their right to trial, by maintaining consistency in sentencing across similarly-situated persons who take plea offers and who go to trial.
- Reject plea deals where there is reason to believe the individual has been pressured or coerced by unnecessary pretrial incarceration to accept an offer, and instead order their pretrial release so they can properly consider their legal defenses and options.
- Decline to impose the death penalty.
- Review your own pretrial, motions, and sentencing determinations every six months disaggregated by race.
- Interrogate law enforcement testimony that you believe to be affected by implicit or explicit racial bias.
- Seek out education on implicit bias, and share resources with fellow judicial officers.
Law Enforcement Misconduct
- Hold prosecutors accountable for withholding Brady material (i.e. evidence that may suggest a person charged with a crime is not guilty), including through sanctions.
- Explicitly discredit law enforcement witnesses who are found to have presented false testimony or evidence in court. Exercise discretion to strike testimony that is deemed to be untrue or misleading.
- Invite and carefully adjudicate motions to suppress in cases where law enforcement obtained evidence through unconstitutional means.
- Encourage meaningful probable cause review prior to issuing search warrants.
- Issue probation violation warrants as a summons or a non-booking citation in cases involving technical violations or non-violent conduct.
- Commit to holding court on a daily or near-daily basis to ensure access to justice for all.
- Be available to perform their duties during normal business hours, and identify a substitute judicial officer if unable to hear cases for a given day.
- Commit to holding all sessions of court in an accessible public forum, with recording and live streaming available.
- Expand virtual attendance options for both people in and out of custody to attend court.