Federal judge halts Georgia’s charitable bail law

(The Center Square) — A federal judge on Friday afternoon halted part of a new state law barring charitable bail from taking effect while a legal challenge proceeds.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Marie Calvert issued a temporary restraining order for 14 days following a Friday hearing. The ACLU of Georgia and the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center filed the lawsuit asking a judge to declare Section 4 of Georgia Senate Bill 63 unconstitutional.

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.

“We are encouraged by the judge’s ruling and its recognition that this law is unnecessary, harmful, and likely unconstitutional,” ACLU of Georgia Legal Director Cory Isaacson said in a statement. “We are relieved for our Plaintiffs and the many people across the state that they serve. It’s unconscionable that people doing charitable bail work would face criminal penalties simply because they are helping people who are languishing in jail because of their poverty and have no other means of relief.”

Spokespeople for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the measure on May 1, did not immediately respond to a Monday request for comment.