Speaking to both houses of the Legislature on Wednesday, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht pressed lawmakers to decriminalize school truancy and spend more on legal aid to military veterans.His comments on truancy were particularly notable: “When almost 100,000 criminal truancy charges are brought each year against Texas schoolchildren, one has to think that maybe it’s not working. Playing hooky is bad, but is it criminal?” he asked. Reported Chuck Lindell, "A better solution, Hecht said, would be for schools and courts to provide prevention and intervention services designed to get students back in the classroom."
Hecht also reminded legislators of their duty to ensure that indigent and middle-class Texans are not priced out of access to the courts — whether it be for civil-court remedies, such as restraining orders for victims of domestic abuse, or for legal help for poor defendants facing criminal charges.
Hecht also, "Called for increased state spending for court-appointed lawyers and public defender offices for indigent defendants accused of a crime, saying the cost has jumped 137 percent since 2001 and is borne mostly by counties." More money, though, isn't the solution to every problem. Grits has suggested the state could reduce indigent defense costs by reducing penalties for low-level nonviolent offenses to fine-only Class C misdemeanors or comparable civil penalties.
Hecht also "Sounded the alarm over partisan judicial elections, saying judges face 'harsh political pressure' that threatens their independence and raises questions about their integrity," though he offered no solutions.