Court of Appeals dismisses Boyle County bond appeal. Public defender plans to ask for Supreme Court review

Published 6:54 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Kentucky Court of Appeals has dismissed an appeal in a Boyle County case concerning the fairness of cash bonds.

Defendant Stacy Devine’s appeal of her $10,000 cash bond is moot, the court ruled, because Devine was “granted bond relief and has posted bond,” according to the court’s Sept. 4 order.

But public defender Jessica Buck said she plans to ask for discretionary review by the Kentucky Supreme Court because Devine’s case shows the need for clear rules concerning the use of financial bonds.

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“We don’t have any right for a second review but the Supreme Court will sometimes accept motions for discretionary review in cases where there is no case law,” Buck said. “Bond is one of those.”

Buck said defendants in Boyle and Mercer counties, which are served by 50th Circuit Court Judge Darren Peckler, are routinely given cash bonds they cannot afford, forcing them to stay in jail when they might otherwise qualify for release.

Devine was jailed on July 14 and given a $10,000 cash bond she could not afford. Buck appealed her bond to Court of Appeals more than two weeks later, and Peckler lowered Devine’s bond the same day, allowing her to bond out using $500 her family was able to pull together, Buck said.

Buck said Devine and her family are still out the $500 they paid, which she believes shouldn’t have been required because Devine is unlikely to reoffend or fail to appear for court. She said she hopes the Supreme Court will consider her client’s case, or will provide guidance on financial bonds to judges.

“Until that happens, people charged with crimes in Boyle and Mercer counties are going to continue to be detained unlawfully on cash bonds and the community going to continue paying for that through tax money,” she said. “… Until a higher court clarifies what judges should be doing when they’re setting bonds, we’re going to continue to have disparity between how bonds are set. And whether people are released pretrial or not is going to depend mostly on where they’re arrested, which is not what the law says we should be looking at.”

Through a member of his office staff, Peckler declined to comment on the appellate court ruling in his favor.

The ruling does not elaborate on the reasons it dismissed the case, other than to note Devine was ultimately able to bond out of jail after Peckler reduced her bond.

Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office argued against Buck’s motion before the appellate court, and then sought sanctions against Buck for “filing a frivolous motion,” according to the case file.

Through a motion filed by Assistant Attorney General Ken Riggs, Beshear’s office argued Buck improperly attempted to strike a response from the AG’s office, which labeled the case as moot.

“Such reckless legal practice wastes precious judicial and executive resources and does not serve the attorney’s client at all,” Riggs wrote. “Some sanction for this flagrant frivolity is appropriate.”

But when it dismissed the case, the Court of Appeals also denied Riggs motion for sanctions, again without further explanation.

A request for comment from Riggs was redirected to Crystal Staley, communications director for Beshear’s office.

“The court agreed with the Office of the Attorney General that the case was moot and it was dismissed,” Staley said in a statement. “The office’s motion was to ensure the civil rules of procedure are followed.”

Staley did not respond to a request for comment on Beshear’s position concerning the setting of financial bonds.

Buck filed a bond appeal in 2018, as well. That appeal was also dismissed by the Court of Appeals, and the Kentucky Supreme Court declined her request for discretionary review.

“I do plan on continuing to file bond appeals,” she said. “I think that we need some guiding law from the higher courts about what is the appropriate standard for setting bonds. … I will continue to file motions in our circuit court to get people out and I will continue to file appeals where appropriate to get my clients out.”

Buck noted she is not the only public defender in Danville fighting to change how financial bonds are used.

“My whole office is making motions,” she said. “… It’s definitely not just me.”