The New York Civil Liberties Union challenged the imposition of cash bail when a judge has not considered a person’s ability to pay or alternatives to money bail. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dutchess County resident Christopher Kunkeli, who has spent three months in jail before trial on a petit larceny charge because his $5,000 bail is nearly half of his annual income.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that imprisoning someone solely because of their poverty violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of equal protection and due process. Yet tens of thousands of New Yorkers like Kunkeli who cannot afford bail are deprived of their freedom each year. The NYCLU is seeking a ruling that could set standards for state courts that would lead to large reductions in the numbers of New Yorkers held before trial.
In addition to Desgranges, NYCLU staff on the case include Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg, associate legal director Christopher Dunn, senior staff attorney Molly Kovel, legal fellow Kristen Burzynski, paralegal Maria Rafael, legal investigator Paula Garcia-Salazar, data and policy analyst Michelle Shames, and former intern Nina Monfredo.