Jerry Watson, Chief Legal Officer of AIA, blogging about the legislative side of the bail bond industry. AIA (Allegheny Casualty, International Fidelity and Associated Bond) is the largest and oldest bail bond insurance company in the nation.
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
I suppose the reason for the requests was that those making the suggestion all knew that this marks the beginning of my forty sixth year as an attorney whose role included that of being an advocate for commercial bail. Perhaps they are simply curious about my impressions of the state of the industry considering all that has impacted it, both good and bad, during this time, and especially over the last several years.
Thinking of that, I found myself moving forward from there just a little to ask myself the question: Do I see anything extremely positive that one could hope for in this year of 2014? And then I considered that the question, if one's heart is really in the right place, should not be confined to just what might be best for the commercial bail industry, but what single development could best benefit the entire pretrial release arena? That seems to be the better enquiry, since how one is released pending trial is such a major component of our country's criminal justice system.
So I confined my pondering to that broader question: What single advance within the pretrial release world would best serve both the administration of justice and the public safety interests of communities nationwide?
The answer that shortly came to me might surprise some of the readers of this first issue of "The Bail Papers". I say this, because over the last twenty years or so much of my time has been spent trying to show that "we" (the private sector bonding industry) are better than "they" (taxpayer funded local pretreat release agencies).
And why, in light of this, would the answer to my question be surprising? Because I believe the best thing that could happen this year would be for these two forces to become the major participants in a new "public-private sector partnership" whereby each side would bring to the country those significant talents unique to each contributor. For, unquestionably, each side has something of extreme value to offer which potential is peculiar unto that side alone. That is: the private sector can bring benefits undeliverable by its counterpart and likewise for the public sector. Exactly what these benefits are will be the subject of another Bail Paper shortly to follow.
More compelling at this point, however, is another question: Could this "coming together" ever even happen, or is it too much to reasonably hope for? It is a very legitimate question indeed, for the depth of the controversy between the two sides has been so pronounced that it puts one in mind of certain biblical language: "Between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us." Luke 16:26.
No doubt the harsh rhetoric historically flowing from either side may have created a challenge, a "chasm" if you will, seemingly too great even if there were some willingness toward exploration of working together for the greater good. But maybe willingness alone, at the outset, could be enough to open some dialogue, and on the premise that communication is the best solvent a bridge toward a place of at least listening to each other could be built. And after that, who knows?
I can almost guarantee you that some among the leaders of the National Association Of Pretrial Service Agencies and The Pretrial Justice Institute will wonder, maybe even "wonder" to the point of being distrustful, at my suggestion. But even if, over the years I have caused them to be suspicious of my motives, I could remind us all of something President Reagan once said about collaborating with the political opposition: "Sometimes, to get to the other side of the river, you have to ride in the boat with folks you wouldn't invite home to dinner."
Maybe, then, just placing the public good first and our own interests second a beginning could be had, a beginning on a path leading to a place where all of our energies and resources could be invested in the same overall objective. In the words of another wise man: "Let it be written. Let it be so." I look forward to reading your comments.
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- Behind the Paper with Jerry Watson
- Jerry Watson serves as Chief Legal Officer to AIA, Senior Vice-President and Legal Counsel, Bail, at IFIC. He is the immediate past Chairman of the Private Enterprise Board of Directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – America’s largest bi-partisan state legislator member organization on whose board he has represented the commercial bail industry for the past 15 years. He has also served as General Counsel of the American Bail Coalition since its founding and is a member of the Bail Advisory Council of the Surety and Fidelity Association of America (SFAA). His undergraduate and law degrees are from Baylor University and he is a graduate of the National College of Criminal Defense Attorneys and Public Defenders. He has testified as an expert on bail in various state and federal cases, among them being the country’s largest bail related damage suits. In Jerry’s 42 years in the bail industry, always as an attorney, he has represented local retail agents, general agencies, insurance companies and insurance companies’ trade associations before state and federal courts and regulatory agencies.
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