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Bail Enhancement Not Excessive When Fulfilling Particular Purpose; Hearing Must Be Held

California attorney Jeffrey Galen's 2001 release from jail after being arrested for domestic violence surprised authorities, as he made an enhanced bail of $1 million. His fiancee dropped the charges when he was released. In 2002 Galen brought an action against the county of Los Angeles and individual officers for constitutional violations. The defendants' summary judgment motions were granted and the Eighth Amendment claims for excessive bail were dismissed as frivolous. The court awarded the county costs and fees, which were partially reversed on appeal.

When Galen was arrested, the police were concerned that he could easily post a $50,000 bond, so they requested his bail be enhanced to $1 million. His constitutional claims regarding the enhanced bail were dismissed, as the court found the county was not liable under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), and the individual officers had qualified immunity. The court awarded the county post-discovery fees and costs, finding that the suit was frivolous and Galen should have realized that by the discovery stage.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the county defendants, as California Penal Code § 1269c authorizes judicial officers "to set bail in an amount that they deem sufficient ... to ensure the protection of a victim ... of domestic violence."
Although the county failed to hold an enhancement hearing before raising Galen's bail, he didn't address that issue and still would not have met the burden of proving it was excessive. Further, Galen could not demonstrate that the officers were the actual and proximate cause of the bail enhancement.

The post discovery fees awarded to the county were reversed and remanded, as the trial court abused its discretion by dismissing Galen's action against the individual officers as frivolous and not providing him an opportunity to prove his claims. See: Galen v. County of Los Angeles, 468 F.3d 563 (9th Cir. 2006).

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Related legal case

Galen v. County of Los Angeles