The Pennsylvania Superior Court on Tuesday denied Meek Mill's emergency motion to get out on bail while he appeals the decision this month by a Philadelphia judge to send him back to prison.
But in what the Philadelphia-born rapper's lawyer called a victory, the appeals court ordered Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Genece E. Brinkley to rule on the bail petition Mill's lawyers filed two weeks ago — and explain her reasons "without further delay."
"This is good news," said the lawyer, Peter Goldberger, hired because of his expertise in appellate law to challenge the two- to four-year prison term Brinkley imposed on Nov. 6.
The Superior Court's ruling came within hours of Mill's motion for an emergency bail order, which complained that Brinkley has not responded to any of Mill's post-sentencing appeals.
"As of this filing, more than 10 days after submission [Brinkley] has taken no action — not even to schedule a hearing — on any petitioner's motions, and in particular not on the bail motion," the emergency habeas corpus petition says.
Habeas corpus motions are typically a last resort after a criminal defendant has exhausted other avenues of appeal. And legally, Brinkley has 30 days to respond to Mill's Nov. 14 motions.
In the Superior Court petition, however, Goldberger contended that the motion is allowed under state appellate rules "to seek transfer from unlawful to lawful form of custody — such as bail, in this case — as well as to obtain release from all custody."
The motion describes Mill — born Robert Williams — as being in a "Catch-22" situation: He can't appeal his conviction and sentence to the Superior Court until Brinkley rules on his post-sentence motions, and she "refuses to do so."
Brinkley, 61, a city judge since 1993, is prohibited from commenting on the controversy surrounding her by rules of judicial conduct.
Her only response so far was on Nov. 17 when she canceled a bail hearing for Mill that had been scheduled through a clerical error.
Since Mill was sentenced to prison for violating the terms of his probation in a 2008 drug and gun case, his management company, Roc Nation, has been marshaling his fans and supporters on his behalf.
There have been protests outside the city's Criminal Justice Center, buses and billboards calling for the hip-hop star's release, and internet petitions that have been signed by hundreds of thousands of people.
Some criminal justice reformers have used Mill as an example of the unfair and disparate treatment meted out to young black men caught up in the court system.
On Monday, the Rev. Al Sharpton visited Mill at the state prison in Chester and promised to use his reputation as a civil rights activists and television personality to help Mill and other prisoners.
Brinkley imprisoned Mill after he tested positive for using the prescription narcotic Percocet and was arrested in a St. Louis airport altercation and in a traffic violation involving a motorbike in Manhattan. In both arrests, authorities agreed to reduce the charges after Mill entered pretrial diversion programs. The city prosecutor and Mill's probation officer did not recommend that he be sentenced to a prison term for the violations.