ACLU and Counties Reach Settlement for Colorado Man Who Spent 52 days in Jail Waiting to See a Judge
DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado announced a settlement this morning on behalf of Michael Bailey, who was jailed for 52 days awaiting his first appearance before a judge in 2015. Bailey was held in the Teller County Jail without bond on a 4-year-old misdemeanor warrant out of Pueblo County. When he was finally transferred and appeared before the Pueblo County Court, he was immediately released on a personal recognizance bond, and his charges were dismissed soon afterward. While in jail, Bailey lost his job and missed two months of pay. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of Bailey against Pueblo and Teller Counties for failing to bring him promptly before a judge for first appearance in violation of the Constitution. This settlement resolves his claims.
Key aspects of settlement:
- Pueblo and Teller Counties agree to bring arrestees from either jurisdiction promptly before a judge for first appearance, including setting of bond.
- Pueblo and Teller Counties will attempt to bring new arrestees before the county court for first appearance at the next court session after arrest.
- In any event, Pueblo and Teller Counties must bring new arrestees before the court for first appearance within two “court days,” which is defined as any day the county court is in session (currently Monday–Friday).
- Through a Consent Decree agreed to by both parties and subject to court approval, the terms of the settlement will be enforceable in federal court.
- A substantial monetary payment for damages and attorneys’ fees.*
ACLU statement by Rebecca Wallace, Staff Attorney & Senior Policy Counsel for the ACLU of Colorado:
The ACLU is proud to announce a settlement of Mr. Bailey’s case that, we hope, provides a framework to begin addressing the statewide problem of pre-trial arrestees languishing in jail for days, weeks and, in some cases, months without seeing a judge, simply waiting for transfer to another jurisdiction.
This settlement was possible only because of prompt, earnest and creative efforts by Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor and Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell to seek both a just resolution for Mr. Bailey and a long-term solution to prevent this kind of injustice from occurring in the future. While this agreement specifically addresses delays in seeing a judge for arrestees held in Pueblo and Teller Counties, it is our hope that it also provides a platform for a broader statewide discussion aimed at solving this problem for the entire state.
While all sheriffs likely agree that no defendant should wait in jail without being taken before a judge for 52 days, we believe many sheriffs are comfortable with pre-trial defendants languishing in jail without seeing a judge for one to two weeks waiting for pick-up by another county. These delays are unconstitutional and do not comport with the duties of sheriffs outlined in Colorado’s rules of criminal procedure. With Sheriff Taylor at the helm of the County Sheriffs of Colorado, we have high hopes that a statewide solution is already or will soon be on the agenda for Colorado’s sheriffs.
Pre-trial detainees like Mr. Baily are innocent in the eyes of the law, have only been accused of a crime, and some will see their charges fully dismissed. Yet, more than half of the people held in Colorado’s overcrowded jails on any given day are pre-trial. Jailing people pre-trial not only raises serious constitutional concerns, but also harms families and communities. While in jail for 52 days, Mr. Bailey lost his home and his job. Pre-trial defendants are at real risk of losing custody of their children and being severely prejudiced in mounting a defense to their criminal case. It is a testament to Mr. Bailey’s resilience that he was able to find employment and, after some time, housing after being held in jail for 52 days. Many defendants jailed pre-trial never fully recover from that experience.
With nearly every one of Colorado’s county jails operating at or above capacity, it is far past time for our state to take on meaningful bail reform.
Statement from Darold Killmer of Killmer, Lane & Newman LLP, Cooperating Counsel for the ACLU of Colorado:
This settlement reflects what is possible when all parties are committed to a just resolution and fair, constitutional policies. It is my hope that this settlement triggers a statewide conversation aimed at ensuring arrestees do not languish in Colorado’s overcrowded jails waiting to be picked up by another county.
Statement from Michael Bailey, ACLU client:
For the 52 days I waited in jail to see a judge, I felt powerless and worried about my future. I knew my rights were being violated, but I couldn’t get anyone to do something about it. I lost my home and my job during that jail stay. I’m putting my life back together now. This settlement allows me to finally put this matter behind me, and to rest easier at night knowing that no one else in Pueblo or Teller County will have to go through what I did. Now, it is time for the rest of the Colorado Sheriffs to make sure this never happens again in their jails.
*At our client’s request, the ACLU has agreed not disclose the monetary amount of the settlement.
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