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Sarah Khan, (248) 894-6766,

February 27, 2020


DETROIT, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) applauds the 86th District Court in Traverse City for updating bail practices in accordance with Michigan law. On February 18th, 2020, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney Phil Mayor sent a letter to Chief Judge Michael Stepka and Grand Traverse County Sheriff Thomas Bensley, urging them to end the unconstitutional practice of failing to return cash bail paid by third parties for defendants in Grand Traverse County, even when the defendant fully complied with the terms of their bail. The next day, the ACLU received a response from Chief Judge Stepka stating that the court had consulted with the State Court Administrative Office and intended to change its practices. In a follow up letter, the court defined their new procedure as follows:

“When a third party comes in to the Court to post a bond for a defendant or when receiving the bond paperwork from the jail, our clerks will enter the third party poster’s information into our system. Once the case is closed either via sentencing, or dismissal, the bond posted will be refunded to the third party, less 10% where applicable.”

Phil Mayor, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney, has the following reaction:

“We applaud the 86th Judicial District Court for promptly updating their practices in accordance with Michigan law. Their swift action is a great example to courts across the state and displays their willingness to re-examine longstanding practices once concerns about those practices have been raised. If there are other courts in the state that are still retaining bail payments made by third parties, those courts should follow the 86th District Court’s lead and immediately change their practices.”