Lawyer Sarah Geraghty (Photo courtesy of the Southern Center for Human Rights)
The lawsuit was filed by Maurice Walker, who was arrested in 2015 for being a pedestrian under the influence of alcohol. He was detained for six days because he could not post a $160 bond. The city has used a schedule that sets bail based solely on the crime being charged, not the offender's ability to pay.
After Walker filed suit, the city changed its practice to give detainees a bond hearing within 48 hours after their arrest. Since Murphy issued his injunction, people charged in Calhoun with misdemeanors have been released on their own recognizance.
The northwest Georgia city’s bail practices have attracted national attention. The U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division and the American Bar Association filed legal briefs in support of Walker’s position. Conversely, the Georgia Sheriffs Association, the American Bail Coalition and the Georgia Association of Professional Bondsmen filed motions in support of Calhoun’s practices.
“We knew Judge Murphy’s order would not stand either on the merits or as a matter of procedure,” said Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition. “We will continue to work with our partners … to finally put an end to these unmeritorious lawsuits.”
One of Walker’s lawyers, Sarah Geraghty, said the 11th Circuit’s decision cannot be characterized as a major victory for the bail industry.
“The court offered no opinion on the merits of the constitutional claim,” she said. “The case will go back to the district court where (Murphy) will have the opportunity to consider how to fine-tune his injunction.”