Rockford Youth Activism protesters march around the Winnebago County Justice Center on Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Rockford.

ROCKFORD — A lawsuit filed on behalf of Black Lives Matter protesters who were held in the Winnebago County Jailed for three days without bond hearings is set to be heard next week before the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The protesters were arrested at a demonstration on a Friday evening. Their attorneys argued the lack of weekend and holiday bond hearings in Winnebago County resulted in unreviewed and extended detentions, a violation the Fourth Amendment.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments Tuesday at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago.

The initial filing was dismissed by the district court noting that a judge signs a probable cause statement within 48 hours.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue the judge does so without the accused or their attorneys present making the probable cause hearings “constitutionally inadequate” because they deny people who are entitled to be released on bail the opportunity to request release within 48 hours. 

According to the appeal, “… the Circuit Court only conducts bond hearings for individuals arrested on felony charges on business days and does not make any arrangements for individuals arrested on weekends to be brought before a judge for a determination of bail eligibility or the amount of bail until the next regular business day.”

The defendants are 17th Judicial Circuit Court Chief Judge Eugene Doherty, Sheriff Gary Caruana and Winnebago County.

Trial Court Administrator Tom Jakeway declined to comment.

Doherty is being represented by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. The county is being represented by the law firm of Hinshaw & Culbertson.

The plaintiffs are Dylan Mitchell, 26; Dayna Schultz, 23; Ivan Holland, 25; Andrew Ehrhardt, 23; and Jaylen Butler, 20, all of Rockford; Ross Wagner, 35, of Madison, Wisconsin; Larissa Walston, 23, of Loves Park; and Michael Riggs, 20, South Beloit.

Each of the plaintiffs were released on their own recognizance once they appeared in front of a judge for their bond hearing.

Many of the protesters, if not all, participated in one of several civil rights protests held in Rockford and around the country after the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd, a man who died after a Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Eleven member organizations of the Illinois Network for Pretrial Justice joined several faith and community organizations from Winnebago County to file an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs and the right to bond hearings within 48 hours of arrest. 

The plaintiffs were released on their own recognizances after appearing in front of a judge for their bond hearings. 

“We have a moral responsibility to ensure that every person in Winnebago County is treated with dignity and respect, especially when they interact with the court system,” said the Rev. Violet Johnicker of Rockford Urban Ministries.

“Delaying bond hearings and keeping people incarcerated is dehumanizing and a denial of constitutional rights. Any amount of time spent locked in a cage causes irreparable harm to our neighbors, and we cannot be silent about our tax dollars being used to jail people who have not even seen a judge.”