Friday, October 02, 2020

People v. Am. Surety Co. (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 1, 2020)

Here's some evidence that the law has gotten marginally more rational over the last hundred years.

Bail is set for a particular criminal defendant at $220,000, but due to a miscommunication, officers at the jail had it listed as $120,000.  So a bail company posts a bail bond for that latter amount, and defendant thereafter failed to show up.  To avoid forfeiture of the bond, the bail company insists that the bond is "void" because it was for the wrong amount, citing a Court of Appeal case from 1919 that so holds (albeit arguably in dicta).

Justice Stewart holds -- eminently sensibly, in my view -- that the bond isn't void.  The company knew it was bonding the guy out for $120,000.  It knew it would lose this amount if he didn't show up.  The bond isn't void.  Indeed, arguably, the bail company's lucky.  It'd have probably lost another $100,000 if the bond had been set in the right amount.

There's also a funny line in the opinion in which Justice Stewart says:  "In the course of our research we encountered—but cannot mention by name—a number of unpublished Court of Appeal decisions rejecting American’s argument and distinguishing [the 1919 Court of Appeal opinion]."  That's definitely one way around Rule 8.1115, eh?!