Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Once more with the bail order for Harris County

Getting close to the end.

The federal judge presiding over the landmark bail lawsuit against Harris County said she planned to issue revised instructions within two weeks for how pretrial release should operate for thousands of poor people arrested on low-level offenses.

Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal fielded input Thursday from attorneys on both sides of the contentious two-year dispute about which defendants should be held in custody and which ones released during the first two days following an arrest.

Rosenthal’s instructions from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were to figure out details, but she said she hoped the county, which has spent more than $6.1 million battling the lawsuit, was on board with the appeals court’s overall findings about the unfairness of “wealth based detention.”

[…]

The attorneys for the indigent defendants asked Rosenthal to consider ordering the immediate release of poor people arrested on certain offenses like drunk driving or writing bad checks if people with the means to pay bond were being released immediately on the same charges.

Lawyers for Harris County, and the hearing officers and county court at law judges who oppose the lawsuit, requested that Rosenthal follow the appeals court instructions to allow up to 48 hours for indigent defendants to appear before a judge who can make an appropriate determination about bail.

Judge Rosenthal had issued final instructions earlier in June, so I presume this is a modification of that. It’s my hope that the next development in this case will a ruling that satisfies the plaintiffs and that the defense accepts. We really do need to end this litigation, and there’s not much of an argument left for the county to make. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to vote out the judges that made us go through all this in November. A political resolution on top of a legal one would really make the difference.

Related Posts:

8 Comments

  1. “The attorneys for the indigent defendants asked Rosenthal to consider ordering the immediate release of poor people arrested on certain offenses like drunk driving or writing bad checks if people with the means to pay bond were being released immediately on the same charges.”

    Yeah that is a good idea the people who paid a bond show up to court and get an interlock system put on their car as a condition of their bond.

    The people with a tax payer bond don’t show up to court and get another dwi.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    When I worked as a jail officer, the county held people who couldn’t afford bond and couldn’t afford an attorney, then after a couple of years offered them a plea deal for “time served,” which of course they took because they would get out in a few weeks. I am sure that it is no different here.

    Of course Houston loves to drive drunk, so perhaps it is best to keep some of the drunk drivers locked up for a while.

  3. “couldn’t afford an attorney”….I am sure they got a court appointed attorney however that the court appointed attorney system was always part of the problem. When the Court decided who would get the court appointments you had a system that was just begging for reform.

  4. Jules says:

    Can you post bail and get a court appointed attorney? I have heard that the logic is if you can afford bail, you can afford an attorney. Is this true? I do not know.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    I remember when we hashed all this out last time, we wondered, what percent of people let out of jail free with no bond will 1) fail to appear, and 2) commit new crimes.

    Does anyone have any stats on that? The answers to these questions should tell us whether Kim Ogg’s policy is a success or a failure, and should be pretty objective and non partisan.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    Another question I have is, if we are letting DWI suspects out on bond and requiring a breathalizer interlock system to be installed on their car, how does that jive with letting DWI suspects out with no bond. If they can’t pay a bond, it stands to reason they can’t pay to have a breathalizer installed on their car. So what happens? Are those indigent drivers just allowed to drive on, with no consequence, compared to the drivers who pay a bond and pay for the interlock system?

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    Paul–yes, they may have gotten a court appointed attorney. I should have specified “couldn’t afford a REAL attorney,” because, the guys in jail called them “public pretenders.”

  8. Darrell Jordan says:

    Just to be clear Vince Ryan controls all litigation when elected officials of Harris County are sued. If he wanted to end this he could. This case will go to the Supreme Court no chance of it settling. Judge Fields and I have have been meeting with the plaintiffs. None of the lawyers the county has paid 6.6 million are willing to show up. There is no leadership from Emmett of Vince in this case.