Civil and Human Rights

Victory Against Cash Bail in Conservative Circuit Court of Appeals

WASHINGTON—In a unanimous opinion this afternoon in ODonnell v. Harris, written by George W. Bush-appointed Judge Edith Brown Clement, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit largely upheld a lower court ruling that struck down the system of cash bail used in Harris County, Texas. Constitutional Accountability Center filed an amicus brief in support of ODonnell, and CAC Civil Rights Director David Gans issued the following reaction to this news: 

This is a huge, precedent-setting ruling that holds that state and local governments may not use the bail system to impose pretrial detention across-the-board on those too poor to pay. It speaks volumes that Judge Clement, a staunchly conservative jurist, found the Constitution’s promise of equal justice applies both to the rich and to the poor. Clement found that the policy presented a “basic injustice” forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment: Those too poor to pay “sustain an absolute deprivation of their liberty interests,” while wealthy defendants, similar in all other respects, go free. With a host of similar cases pending in other courts, Clement’s analysis offers a powerful basis for ensuring equal justice for all, regardless of wealth.



CAC’s brief in ODonnell v. Harris County, Texas, et al.

“When cash bail violates the Constitution,” Elizabeth Wydra, San Antonio Express-News, October 10, 2017:


Constitutional Accountability Center ( is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history.