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California's Chief Justice Calls For End To Cash Bail

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

In this March 23, 2015, file photo, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye delivers her State of the Judiciary address before a joint session of the Legislature at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif.

Rich Pedroncelli / AP Photo

(AP) - California's top judge says she wants to do away with the state's cash bail system.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said Tuesday that California should instead rely on risk assessments to decide whether defendants should be released before their trials.

Critics say the current system disproportionately hurts poor defendants and keeps them locked up just because they cannot afford bail. They say wealthy defendants get to go free ahead of their trials.

The chief justice endorsed a report by the judiciary calling for an end to cash bail. She said it should serve as a framework for discussions with California's governor and state lawmakers.

Opponents of scrapping cash bail say the prospect of forfeiting the money ensures that people show up for court.

American Bail Coalition executive director Jeff Clayton said Tuesday other states that have tried similar measures have had problems with released defendants committing new crimes.

Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys has authored a bail reform bill with similar proposals. He says the chief justice's support greatly increases its chances of passing.

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