U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle Photo: Carmen Natale/ALM

A federal judge has refused to halt enforcement of New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Reform Act, finding that a constitutional challenge by a bail bond underwriter has little chance of succeeding.

In Holland v. Rosen, U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle ruled that an injunction is not warranted in the suit because the plaintiffs have not shown a likelihood of success on their Fourth, Eighth or Fourteenth Amendment claims. What’s more, the balance of risks shows that the risk of harm to others if the injunction is granted is greater than the harm to plaintiffs if it is denied, the judge said in Thursday’s ruling.

Although the judge was only deciding the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, the decision is a big setback for the plaintiffs, Brittan Holland and Lexington National Insurance Corp. Holland is a criminal defendant who was denied cash bail after his arrest on an assault charge and Lexington is a company whose business of issuing bail bonds in New Jersey has been “severely harmed” by the CJRA, it claims.

The suit was brought on behalf of a class of people who are unable to get cash bail under the act, which went into effect Jan. 1. Paul Clement, who served as U.S. solicitor general under President George W. Bush and now is with Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, D.C., is on the team representing the plaintiffs. Defendants in the suit are Attorney General Christopher Porrino, Camden County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo and Kelly Rosen, a Superior Court of New Jersey employee in Camden who enforced the act against Holland.

The strong public interest in enforcement of the CJRA is another reason to deny the plaintiffs’ motion for an injunction, Simandle said. He noted that the act replaced a monetary-based bail system that resulted in excessive detentions for those unable to pay and failed to take into account the risk of danger if a party is released.

“There is undeniably a strong public interest in maintaining such a reform, provided that it is constitutional,” Simandle wrote. The accomplishment of setting aside a resource-based system of pretrial release in favor of a risk-based system “should not be set aside absent a clear demonstration of its constitutionality.”

Simandle rejected the plaintiffs’ claims that the CJRA violates their Fourth Amendment rights to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. The plaintiffs argued that the electronic monitoring bracelet that Holland was required to wear on his ankle is an intrusion on his privacy and constitutes an unreasonable search, and that the requirement that he remain on home detention, except when he’s at work, constitutes an unreasonable seizure. Simandle responded that an individual’s expectation of privacy is reduced when he is arrested on probable cause for a dangerous offense and that Holland agreed to home detention and monitoring after waiving the opportunity for a pretrial detention hearing.

Simandle also rejected claims that the plaintiff’s inability to be released on bail violates his Eighth Amendment rights. Holland was subject to pretrial detention because he was deemed potentially dangerous because he allegedly broke several of his victim’s facial bones, but he waived his right to monetary bail when he accepted monitoring in exchange for the prosecution’s agreement to drop a request for detention, the judge said.

The judge also rejected Holland’s claim that he was denied his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, finding that he waived his right to a pretrial detention hearing when he agreed to be released subject to nonmonetary conditions.

Holland, a Sicklerville resident, was charged with assault after an altercation at Joe’s Tavern in Winslow. According to the state, Holland fled the scene but was found at home wearing clothing covered in fresh blood.

Holland was represented by a public defender when he negotiated the pretrial detention terms, and he accepted the terms in an appearance before a Superior Court judge, the state said. He was placed on house arrest except while at work and was ordered to wear a monitoring device on his ankle instead of posting bail. He is required to report to pretrial services every two weeks.

Porrino, in a statement, welcomed the ruling.

“This is another win for criminal justice reform in New Jersey, which has faced and withstood numerous challenges since becoming effective in January of this year. The reforms continue to meet the dual goals of protecting the community by affording judges the discretion to detain without bail the most dangerous defendants, while at the same time minimizing pre-trial incarceration of low-risk, indigent defendants. We will continue to work with stakeholders across the criminal justice system to ensure the effective implementation of this system,” Porrino’s statement said.

Clement and his co-counsel, Michael Williams of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington and Justin Quinn of Robinson Miller in Newark, did not respond to requests for comment.

Another suit challenging the CJRA, Rodgers v. Christie, filed on July 31 on behalf of a man who was allegedly shot and killed by a man who was released under auspices of the new system, is still pending.