Nashville Community Bail Fund v. Howard Gentry

In Davidson County, Tennessee, hundreds of people await trial in jail because they cannot pay an upfront money bail. Under Davidson County Local Rule Governing Bail Bonds 10(B), Defendant Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry garnishes cash bond deposits to collect court costs, fines, and restitution. The policies created by Gentry’s office require people to remain incarcerated until their trial unless the person(s) posting cash bonds on their behalf sign a form acknowledging, in writing, notice of and agreement to garnishment of the cash bond deposit. In sum, Gentry’s office conditions pretrial release on the garnishment of cash bail deposits.

Plaintiff Nashville Community Bail Fund (NCBF), a charitable organization established to secure the release of persons who cannot afford to pay a money bond from pretrial detention, alleges the sole purpose of the garnishment policy is to maximize revenue for the court system. It alleges that Rule 10(B) and Gentry’s garnishment policy violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of those arrested, as well as the NCBF, which sustains its operation by using a revolving fund. The fund relies on recovering posted bond money at the conclusion of participants’ cases. Plaintiff alleges that Rule 10(B) and Gentry’s garnishment policies and practices violate the rights of arrested persons and injure the NCBF by: (1) rendering money bail unconstitutionally “excessive”; (2) improperly burdening the constitutional right to pretrial release; and (3) depriving the NCBF of property without due process. Plaintiff seeks, inter alia, a preliminary and permanent injunction halting the enforcement of Rule 10(B) and Gentry’s policies, as well as declarations that Rule 10(B) and Gentry’s policies violate: (1) the Eighth Amendment prohibition on excessive bail; (2) the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by placing unnecessary conditions on the exercise of a protected liberty interest; and (3) the Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by depriving third parties of their property without notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to garnishment.

You can find a link to the complaint here.

ACLU Foundation of Tennessee; American Civil Liberties Union Foundation; Civil Rights Corps; Choosing Justice Initiative
February 5, 2020