Saturday, December 19, 2015

We don't need no stinkin' Speedy Trial Act

Though Texas has no speedy trial act on the books, there's a general sense within the system that, as the adage says, justice delayed is justice denied. But the judiciary has been loathe to accept actual temporal limits on their work, allowing huge backlogs to develop that fill up county jails with people who can't make bail awaiting trial. A recent move to create aspirational goals to improve those timelines faces perhaps predictable judicial opposition. From Texas Lawyer (Dec. 15):
The Texas Supreme Court Advisory Committee is planning to convene a task force of its members and others appointed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to begin drafting time standards for criminal cases for the Texas Rules of Judicial Administration.

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht asked the SCAC to make recommendations about how to amend Rule 6.1, which sets aspirational time standards for courts to dispose of criminal cases. Currently the rule refers to a 1987 state law, the Speedy Trial Act, which the Court of Criminal Appeals struck down as unconstitutional in 1987. The Texas Legislature formally repealed the speedy trial act in 2005.
Here's a good description of the options on the table:
David Peeples, the chairman of the SCAC's subcommittee on time standards for criminal cases, wrote in a Dec. 10 memo that the advisory committee could recommend to simply delete the reference to time standards in criminal cases altogether, but that there's "no real support" for that option.

Another idea is to delete references to the speedy trial act, and instead, list three other parts of the Code of Criminal Procedure that require a criminal-defendant who is in jail to be released on bond or bail if the state isn't ready to go to trial within a certain time, require a court to dismiss a defendant's case if the state doesn't indict or charge him within a certain time, and give precedent to criminal trials over civil trials and to criminal defendants who are in jail over others.

A final option, Peeples' memo said, would be to change the rule to include a new set of time standards. The new task force will help draft those time standards and then present them for the full SCAC's consideration.
The voice of pragmatism arose out of Houston from whence:
Rusty Hardin, a SCAC member and well-known criminal-defense lawyer who has also worked as a prosecutor, said that most criminal defendants do not want a speedy trial. He said the real issue in the criminal justice system is that people are "languishing in jail" because of bail policies. Hardin said he was skeptical and pessimistic about whether time standards would have any meaning.

Hecht noted that the high court has convened a separate committee to propose changes to pretrial release policies.
Defendants who can't make bail may want a speedy trial (or plea) because, until the matter is resolved, they must sit in jail. If they're out of jail awaiting trial, they're more likely to care about a fair one.

Interestingly, "two SCAC members who are practicing jurists opposed the idea."
"Aspirational goals lead to statistics being kept. That leads to … public perception and then the use of those statistics in election cycles, when judges are not in a good position to defend why individual cases were or were not met in the goals," explained 10th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Tom Gray.
That's just perfect, isn't it? What's really being said is judges don't want to be held accountable by voters. Grits is not a great fan of electing judges. But if we're going to do that, voters need information on which to base their decisions and it's not unreasonable for them to hold judges accountable for either meeting speedy trial goals or supplying a good explanation why they didn't.


Anonymous said...

Just curious. Is SCAC only addressing pretrial delays or delays in general? Post conviction writs stay pending at the Court of Criminal Appeals way too long even after the trial court has recommended relief. In my opinion strict timetables are needed more for post conviction writs than during pretrial

Thomas R. Griffith said...

Grits, after hearing you and others referring to the criminal justice system (process) as being - 'Broken', I attempted to explain that it's 'not' broken and more like - 'Rigged'. I look forward to the day that you and others with blog-juice utilize the correct description. It's kinda like referring to Team Efforts resulting in the criminal act of conspiracy to obtain convictions at all cost via: creating / co-creating and signing off on false police incident reports, planting falsified state's exhibits and failing to fully represent clients all the way to verdict as a - "wrongful conviction". By doing so, an entire generation will grow up thinking that the ADA is solely responsible, when a little research reveals that it takes an entire Team Effort to allow mass false arrests to morph into extended stays in the county jail. Basically, over-crowding by design that results in taking the plea.

This GFB posting explains exactly why the judges in Harris County collectively thumbed their noses at the idea of reforming the bail process. (if only bribery & cronyism were illegal and of course enforced). Hopefully, this post's revelations results in voters being prompted to think twice about the causes & effects of voting without researching the candidate's past. Specifically, - any criminal activity tied to previous positions) and any scandalous activities associated with current positions held.

Regarding electing judges. If we are going to continue to elect (allow / condone the act of voting just to be voting) them in purely based on the letter on their foreheads, then so be it. But, let it be known that the person running for judge could be a criminal him / her self. If he / she was a former police officer, or a prosecutor, and you are hell bent of voting based purely on gang affiliations alone, don't be surprised to learn that he / she is documented (in one or more police incident reports, court files, news reports) as to have knowingly & willingly framed (set up) innocent people resulting in the gross railroading of the innocent. Of course, you'd have to be a taxpayer in order to fully appreciate whether, or not you are funding the warehousing of both the: Guilty & Not Guilty alike all based on a convictions at all cost scheme. At some point, overburdened camel's backs simply break and pity the fools that find themselves under their bellies. Until then, it looks like we are hinging our bets on another friggin committee.

Skifool said...

One would hope the civil lawyers request input from the criminal practitioners before promulgating such a rule. There is a big problem in Albuquerque because of the NM Supreme Court-adopted rule, which has the effect of giving law enforcement only 10 days after arrest to provide all the evidence to the DA. This rule plays havoc in more complex cases.

81 criminal cases dismissed under new 10-day rule

WRITTEN BY KOAT POSTED: 03/06/2015, 10:36AM

Some state leaders said it’s time to take action after Target 7 uncovered dozens of suspected criminals walking free because of new legal rules. So far, 81 criminal cases have been dismissed by Bernalillo County prosecutors and judges, because of a new 10-day rule imposed by the state’s Supreme Court.

Skifool said...

Here's a link to a manual that contains the new (pilot) rule:

Unknown said...

This is wrong just like the Rocket Docket in San Antonio, my son did not ask for a speedy trail. Then they have another one changing the name.

Unknown said...

This is wrong just like the Rocket Docket in San Antonio, my son did not ask for a speedy trail. Then they have another one changing the name.