Lawsuits challenging SAFE-T Act consolidated by Illinois Supreme Court

Lawsuits from prosecutors in 58 Illinois counties challenging the state's SAFE-T Act criminal justice reform law have been consolidated into one case in Kankakee County.

Kankakee County State's Attorney Jim Rowe will litigate the case on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Illinois Supreme Court entered an order Monday to consolidate the litigation, which will be heard by Thomas Cunningham, chief judge of the 21st Circuit, which covers Kankakee and Iroquois counties.

Rowe and Will County State's Attorney James Glasgow filed lawsuits Sept. 16 to challenge the SAFE-T Act. State's attorneys in numerous other counties - including McHenry, DeKalb, Carroll, Kendall and LaSalle - soon followed their lead.

Named as defendants are Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, Illinois House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch and Illinois Senate President Don Harmon.

The law, which eliminates cash bail as of Jan. 1, has become a key election issue in not only the governor race between Pritzker and Republican Sen. Darren Bailey, but also for seats in the state legisature.

Glasgow's lawsuit claims the SAFE-T Act violates the bail provisions of the Illinois Constitution and will lead to increased delays in cases handled by his office, delays in the administration of justice, as well as increased staff and workload costs.

"Without the ability to secure the appearance of defendants for trial, (Glasgow) will be severely hamstrung in his ability to proceed with the prosecution of cases, much like the courts will be stripped of their inherent authority to manage their courtrooms," the suit alleges.

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said the lawsuit is a "weak attempt to protect the status quo that lets murders and abusers pay their way out of jail."

"The SAFE-T Act not only prevents that from happening, but also provides law enforcement officers the tools they need to fight crime, like body cameras, additional training and access to mental health care," Abudayyeh said.

Abudayyeh said victims rights organizations support the law, and the state "will defend creating a more equitable criminal justice system in court."

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