Jones prevails in legal challenge to bail regulation
News: 2018 Press Release
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Thursday issued a decision against a bail agent who sued Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones challenging a regulation prohibiting bail agents from referring, suggesting, or recommending an attorney to arrestees.
The regulation, which dates back to the 1940s, was challenged by bail agent Chad Conley who asserted the insurance commissioner lacked the authority to adopt the regulation and that the regulation improperly restricts bail agents' First Amendment rights.
In her decision in the Conley v. Jones suit, Judge Elizabeth Feffer noted, "the Commissioner presented convincing arguments that attorney referrals by bail agents to arrestees are inherently misleading."
Bail agents have enormous power over arrestees' freedom and arrangements between bail agents and lawyers undermine an attorney's loyalty to an arrestee who might get into a dispute with a bail agent about the amount of bail, refund of premium, or other issues.
"The court's decision upholding my regulation protects the integrity of the justice system by preventing bail agents from misrepresenting their role as looking out for the interests of the arrestee," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "A bail agent's interest is not to protect arrestees—it is rather a financial interest limited to obtaining a premium from the arrestee and protecting the surety company's bond."
The court reasoned that the regulation directly furthers important government interests in precluding overreaching and undue influence by bail agents in arrestees' decisions about hiring an attorney, as well as in regulating the conduct of bail agents who are licensed by the Department of Insurance.
"Our current bail system needs to be reformed so that decisions to detain people before trial are not made based on ability to pay. In the meantime, I will do everything I can under existing law to make sure bail agents follow the law," Jones continued.
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Case number: BC63083
§2071. Suggesting or Recommending Attorney; Prohibited
No bail licensee shall in any manner, directly or indirectly, suggest the name of or recommend any attorney to any arrestee or person purporting to act for or represent an arrestee.
Other recent regulatory challenges and wins:
Association of California Insurance Companies v. Jones (2017) 2 Cal. 5th 376, where the California Supreme Court upheld regulations issued by Commissioner Jones protecting consumers from misleading statements by insurers in the form of incomplete estimates of the replacement value of homes.
Association of California Life & Health Insurance Companies v. Department of Insurance (2017) Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 968; 2017 WL 541927), where the Court of Appeal of California upheld regulations issued by Commissioner Jones protecting consumers from having their health insurance coverage improperly terminated by insurers.
Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.