On the use of video conference for bail hearings

The use of video conference [in Philadelphia bail hearings] is extremely dehumanizing and (I think) encourages representatives from the District Attorney's Office and the Public Defenders to not take bail hearings seriously. I’m used to seeing PDs on their feet fighting for clients in the Bronx. This was extremely distressing.

A system that deprives PDs of an initial interview denies them the important first step in building trust with clients and the opportunity to really fight back in bail hearings.

I don’t understand how public defenders can be expected to properly do their jobs without meeting with clients first. The bail determination is critical to the ultimate resolution of a case (we all know that incarcerated clients plead guilty much more frequently) and the fact that PDs aren’t able to meet clients and begin to understand their stories and tell them in court at this stage is horrifying.

Side note: I saw a magistrate acquiesce to $500,000 bail based on homicide charges that were dropped for a client only charged with VUFA (Violation of the Uniform Firearm Act). I’m not sure what bothers me more: That the magistrate considered information outside his purview (and clearly outside the criminal complaint) or that the public defender didn’t have a conniption when this happened and put up more of a fight.

— Anonymous law student, reflections from May 16, 2018

Disclaimer: The views of Philadelphia Bail Watch volunteers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Philadelphia Bail Fund and/or Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. Sign up to volunteer with Philadelphia Bail Watch here