Posted 12/11/2012

In Fields v. Henry County, Tennessee, 2012 WL 6097334 (6th Cir. December 10, 2012) the plaintiff was charged with domestic assault.  After he surrendered, the County Sheriff held him for 12 hours and then released him on $5,000 bond pursuant to a bail schedule.  After the charges were dropped, the plaintiff sued the County under §1983 alleging Constitutional violations.  The Court summarized the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment contentions and its decision as, “Fields advances two theories under the Eighth Amendment: (1) Henry County’s use of a bond schedule to set his bail violated his right to be free from excessive bail, and (2) Henry County’s denial of bond for 12 hours violated his right to bail.  He is wrong on both counts.”  The Court held that the Eighth Amendment applied to the amount of bail not its timing, and here the plaintiff did not contend the $5,000 amount was excessive.  The Court also rejected the plaintiff’s various claims of due process violations.  In an effort to show violation of a liberty interest, the plaintiff argued that Tennessee law presumed that a defendant should be released on his own recognizance.  The Court disagreed and stated, “In Tennessee, bail is the norm, not the exception.  To be released on his own recognizance, a defendant must demonstrate that bond is not necessary to assure his appearance. . . . And even after such a showing, a defendant is not guaranteed to be released on his own recognizance.”  The Court affirmed the district court’s judgment for the defendant.
 
People v. North River Insurance Co., Case No. G046546 (Cal.App. November 26, 2012) involved the same bond as People v. Fairmont Specialty Group, 2011 WL 2640475 (Cal.App. July 6, 2011).  The defendant was located in Mexico but the district attorney did not extradite or refuse to extradite him within the extended appearance period.  After summary judgment was affirmed in the earlier appeal, the surety learned that within the extended appearance period an assistant district attorney had noted on a letter that the office would not seek extradition “at this time” but had not send this note or otherwise communicate the decision to the surety.  Three weeks later, the district attorney’s office had reversed the tentative decision and decided to seek extradition.
 
In the second appeal the surety argued that not communicating the negative extradition decision was a denial of due process rendering the summary judgment void.  The void judgment was not res judicata, and so the prior appeal would not bar relief.  The Court rejected the surety’s arguments.  The Court thought that the assistant district attorney did not make an election as to extradition.  The note was not sent to the surety and was equivocal.  The unequivocal decision to seek extradition was communicated to the surety less than three weeks later.  The Court concluded, “we cannot say section 1305, subdivision (g) was triggered by Armstrong’s interlineations of October 29, 2009.  Accordingly, we cannot say there was any basis to hold the later summary judgment void.”  [Not published].