Groups sue to stop Georgia law barring charitable bail

(The Center Square) — Two groups have filed a federal lawsuit to stop elements of a state law they say bars charitable bail activity.

The ACLU of Georgia and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center filed the lawsuit on Friday, asking a judge to declare Section 4 of Georgia Senate Bill 63 unconstitutional and issue a temporary restraining order barring the law from taking effect on July 1.

The groups filed on behalf of Barred Business Foundation, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, and John Cole Vodicka and Steve Williams, both members of Athens’ Oconee Street United Methodist Church. Vodicka coordinates the charitable bail fund the church’s Justice & Outreach Committee administers, and Williams volunteers with the project.

SB 63 is cruel and costly, forcing people to languish in jail because they can’t pay for their release, and prohibiting others from being able to help them become free,” Cory Isaacson, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement.

“With this law, the State of Georgia makes it illegal for people to exercise their First Amendment rights to help those who are detained solely because they are poor,” Isaacson added. “It is mean and it is unconstitutional, and our hope is that the courts will step in to stop the State from doing more harm.”

Earlier this month, The Bail Project said it closed its Atlanta site, effective June 10, because of SB 63.

A spokesperson for Republican Lt. Governor Burt Jones, who advocated for the measure, did not have an immediate comment on the legislation, instead pointing to a May statement issued after Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the measure.

“The passage of these bills helps enable law enforcement to do their jobs and allows offenders to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Jones said in the May statement. “We will not allow criminals to roam free in our streets. These bills continue our efforts to keep Georgians safe.”