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Loyola law professor member of team winning Trial Lawyer of the Year Award

Loyola press release - August 3, 2016

Team of lawyers that ended use of bail bonds for the incarcerated poor in Ascension Parish, La. continues fight for social justice

A legal team including Loyola law professor William P. Quigley has won the Public Justice 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award. Through a series of successful cases in Louisiana, Alabama and Missouri, the team of social justice lawyers ended the use of unconstitutional money bail systems in four cities and now crusades for systemic change around the nation. The team received the 2016 Trial Lawyer of the Year Award on the evening of Sunday, July 24 at Public Justice’s Annual Gala & Awards Dinner at the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles. Sharing the national title is a team that won a historic settlement regarding financial institution funding of terrorism.

“No one should be in jail just because they are poor,” said William P. Quigley, director of the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center and the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice at the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. “Yet each night in our country, more than 500,000 people are detained in jail because they are unable to post bail while awaiting trial,” Quigley said. “These cases are the beginning of the end for these unfair and unconstitutional practices.”

These cases represent one of the first challenges to the constitutionality of the American money bail system, Public Justice leaders said in a statement. The system forces detainees – who are often held for minor, non-violent offenses – to sit in jail awaiting trial because they cannot afford to pay bail. These detainees constitute 60 percent of the U.S. jail population.

In January 2015, Alec Karakatsanis of Equal Justice Under Law filed suit in federal court of Montgomery, Ala., making his client the first person to file a systemic challenge to the American money bail system on equal protection and due process grounds since the rise of mass incarceration more than 30 years ago. The Department of Justice subsequently filed a landmark Statement of Interest, agreeing that holding a person in jail on a money bail she cannot afford, and without an inquiry into her ability to pay, is unconstitutional.

These cases “have set incredibly important precedent in the age of criminal justice reform, one that continues to be important for the conversation surrounding money bail and pretrial justice in the United States,” said a statement from Public Justice.

Quigley, a longtime social justice lawyer, helped to take up the fight in Louisiana along with Karakatsanis and lawyers from the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center. The team successfully filed a suit in Ascension Parish that ended the use of money bonds for arrests for nonviolent misdemeanors. The team continues to work with other jurisdictions around the state to do the same.

“Social justice advocacy is part of the DNA of Loyola,” Quigley said. “I am fortunate to work at a Jesuit university dedicated to transformation of our world.”

The Public Justice organization pursues high impact lawsuits “to combat social and economic injustice, protect the Earth’s sustainability, and challenge predatory corporate conduct and government abuses. Public Justice presents its Trial Lawyer of the Year Award to the attorney(s) who made the greatest contribution to the public interest within the past year by trying or settling a precedent-setting, socially significant case.

In addition to these cases, Quigley is involved with other teams of social justice lawyers challenging the current public defender meltdown in Louisiana, the jailing of underprivileged people for non-payment of fines and fees, and the denial of right to vote for people who have gone through the criminal legal system.