Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said [Chairman Tommy] Williams had presented an opportunity for the court to propose “proactive programs” on mental health. He also asked how the court’s current mental-health training keeps people with mental illnesses out of jail.Shannon Edmonds at the Texas District and County Attorneys Association provided this rueful addendum about legislators questioning of Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Barbara Hervey over training for prosecutors on handing over exculpatory evidence, which the US Supreme Court deemed a constitutional obligation under Brady v. Maryland:
Hervey said she’d like to study available mental-health resources and educate lawyers about the resources so they could propose placing a criminal defendant in a mental-health facility instead of the criminal-justice system.
The Legislative Budget Board has recommended the CCA receive funding of $27.07 million for the 2014-15 biennium for court operations and judicial training. The court has requested an additional $5.39 million for multiple training programs and also wants another $1.29 million for a new staff attorney, pay raises for current lawyers, and more.
“We rely on them totally,” Presiding Judge Sharon Keller said about the CCA’s staff attorneys.
Committee members discussed prosecutors’ training with Judge Barbara Hervey, who manages the state’s grant program for the Court of Criminal Appeals that provides prosecutors with the bulk of their training. The committee members were most interested in additional training for prosecutors in two areas—mental health and Brady compliance. It was clear from the tenor of the questions that some legislators want to see increased training for prosecutors in both of these areas. As an aside, you should know that Judge Hervey fielded some very pointed questions about prosecutor conduct. Judge Hervey declined the invitation to drop prosecutors in the grease and opined that notwithstanding the occasional “bad apple,” prosecutor misconduct is not a problem in Texas. However, the tenor of the questioning certainly foreshadows what may be in store for prosecutors later this session.Another Tex Parte entry helpfully reported on requests at the same hearing to improve court technology, and here's one on Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson's budget presentation on the Supreme Court side.