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Appeal of bail injunction dropped

Elections have consequences, and thank goodness for it.

Less than a week after the new jurists were sworn into office, Harris County’s misdemeanor judges on Monday withdrew their appeal in the landmark lawsuit over local bail practices that a federal judge said unfairly targeted poor people accused of crimes.

The historic litigation began in 2016, when attorneys and civil rights groups sued the county on behalf of defendants jailed for days because they couldn’t afford bond on low-level offenses. Though Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal said the practice was unconstitutional and amounted to wealth-based detention, so far the county has spent more than $9 million in legal fees to fight the case, according to Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

But many saw the Democratic wave in November’s elections as a sign of change ahead – and Monday’s court filings look to be one of the first indicators of that shift.

“It’s going to be a new day,” Neal Manne, attorney for the plaintiffs, said in November just after the ballot-box sweep. And now, according to Judge Darrell Jordan – the one misdemeanor judge who did not lose his bench in the last election – the parties have already begun hashing out a settlement they hope to have in place in the next few weeks.

“Our goal is have this accomplished by February 1, 2019,” Jordan told the Houston Chronicle.

One of a series of documents filed in recent days, the two-page motion simply lists the names of the new judges – who automatically replaced their predecessors as defendants in the suit – and asks that the case be dismissed. The court granted the motion and dismissed the appeal by mid-day.

[…]

Mike Fields, the one outgoing judge who supported the lawsuit, lauded the move as a “great first step” toward reform.

“Quite frankly, it’s overdue,” he said. “I remain convinced that fighting against bail reform was a mistake and, I believe, part and parcel of why the citizens of Harris County voted for such a sweeping change in our political landscape. Hopefully, this issue will, finally, be put to bed and taxpayer money better spent going forward.”

[…]

Meanwhile, the Harris County Attorney’s Office issued a statement expressing confidence in the possibility of a settlement.

“The County Attorney’s Office supports the newly-elected judges in their effort to resolve this case on terms they find acceptable,” County Attorney Vince Ryan said in a statement. “This is a case about judicial discretion.”

The next hearing, in Rosenthal’s court, is slated for Feb. 1.

Out-fricking-standing. The new judges are now represented by a pro bono attorney, instead of the high-priced guy that had been arguing the case in court. What this means is that the injunction will remain in place while the settlement is hashed out, with no further briefs or arguments or whatever else before the Fifth Circuit. (The last update I had on this was from August; I don’t think there was any other business on the agenda, but if there was it’s now moot.) Perhaps once we get this settlement in place we can stop outsourcing inmates once and for all. Now we need the city of Houston to get its act together and follow the county’s lead. Bottom line is that this, as much as anything, is what I wanted from the 2018 election. Well done, y’all.

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6 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Well, we’ll see how many MORE deaths we can attribute to the kindler, gentler Harris County justice system. I guess the death of little 7 year old Jasmine will be the first of many we can lay at the feet of Kim Ogg.

    https://www.click2houston.com/news/second-man-charged-with-capital-murder-in-connection-with-jazmine-barnes-death?__vfz=medium%3Dtray_notification#vf-5072900018426

    “HOUSTON – A second suspect in the shooting death of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes has been charged with capital murder in the case.

    Larry Woodruffe, 24, was charged Tuesday with capital murder after deputies said corroborating evidence of his involvement was confirmed.

    Woodruffe remains in the Harris County jail on a drug possession charge. He was ordered held on a $100,000 bond for that charge.

    Eric Black Jr., 20, is also charged with capital murder. He was arrested Saturday after a tip. Deputies said Black admitted to taking part in the shooting.

    Investigators said Jazmine was shot in the head on the morning of Dec. 30 when someone opened fire into her family’s car, with her mother and three sisters also inside, on the East Sam Houston Parkway feeder road near Wallisville Road. Jazmine’s mother was injured.

    Woodruffe has a lengthy criminal history and Houston Crimestoppers’ Andy Kahan is questioning the punishment Woodruffe received for past crimes.

    “These are questions that have yet to be answered and hopefully will (be) down the line,” said Kahan.

    Kahan is specifically referring to a pair of criminal cases involving Woodruffe. Court records show Woodruffe was sentenced in January 2017 to two years in prison for assaulting a family member. That same year he was released under mandatory supervision, and by November he was charged with being a felon in possession of a gun.

    Court records show he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in the weapons case and was sentenced to nine months in county jail.

    “Certainly questions are going to arise, if he had been returned to prison, would he have been out?” said Kahan.

    Court records show when Woodruffe pleaded guilty in the weapons case he was two months shy of completing his sentence on the assault charge. Officials with the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole told KPRC they are still researching Woodruffe’s file.

    The Houston Police Officers Union sent out a tweet questioning why Woodruffe was allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the weapons case. Officials with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office have not yet responded to KPRC’s request for comment.”

  2. Ross says:

    @Bill, WTF does your comment have to do with bail on misdemeanor cases? The bail case has little to do with the DA”s office, and everything to do with stubborn former judges who didn’t want to do their jobs well.

  3. Manny Barrera says:

    Bill, you would make a great coach, just let you decide after the game is over. Hindsight is awesome.

    But as Ross said, WTF, you got the courts wrong, but then facts are not your strongest suit.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    Ross,

    The girl is dead because the court system failed her. Her predators were out and about when at least one of them should have been locked up.

    What does that have to do with bail on misdemeanor cases? Everything. When people who can’t or won’t make bail sit in jail, the people of Houston are safer. Maybe it’s YOUR car or house that doesn’t get robbed. Maybe it’s YOUR wife who doesn’t get raped. Maybe it’s YOUR kid that doesn’t get killed.

    Think about that. You’re in jail, it’s a misdemeanor (not a huge bail amount), but it’s not your first rodeo with the criminal justice system. You can’t afford the bail. OK. Your abuela, your T. Jones, your homie down the block…..they all know you well and won’t front the bail for you because they KNOW you are a screw up who will either not show up for court, re-offend, or both. All the people in your life who could come up with bail know you well enough to know that you’re better off in jail.

    But hey, that’s not fair, so let’s make the public suffer, just like little Jasmine suffered. . Jasmine won’t wake up tomorrow because our criminal justice system has been overrun with SJW’s. She’s dead. No take backs.

    All the collateral damage that comes from letting these people loose is on you, and the others who support this lawsuit. Their suffering is on you. Hope it’s worth it.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    Manny,

    Aren’t you in favor of gun control? Don’t you want to disarm people? White people commit the same kind of crimes Jasmine’s killer commit. Don’t you at least want to disarm the whites?

    Here’s a felon that gets caught with a gun….while still on parole for the last crime. Hmm. Maybe the way to keep this guy disarmed is to keep him in prison. Don’t you want gun control? Don’t you want people to be safe?

    There was your chance, and you blew it….and Jasmine is dead.

  6. Manny Barrera says:

    Yes, Bill, I am in favor of gun control. But that felon has nothing to do with what the bail bond lawsuit is about.

    I am really sorry Bill, that you have trouble comprehending. I don’t know of any place that could cure that problem. Maybe prayers on your part Bill, ask God to give you understanding.

    Bill, I see why you adore your man god, you both use fear to push crazy.

    Bill, you know that I am referring to Trump, just in case you did not understand.