Monday, January 22, 2018

Magistrates admit Harris judges pressured them to require money bail

Three Harris County magistrate judges were sanctioned by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct for failing to grant personal bonds to low-risk defendants who deserve them, reported the Houston Chronicle, and their reaction seems, to this writer, tantamount to an admission of the allegations in the federal litigation pending at the 5th Circuit.
The rebuke by the Texas Commission on Judicial Standards cites hearing officers Joseph Licata III, Jill Wallace and Eric Hagstatte with a public admonition and ordered them to take additional educational instruction. 
The order from commission chair, Justice Douglas S. Lang, said the board took into consideration that the hearing officers testified on Dec. 7 in Austin that they had been told by Harris County criminal court judges they should not grant cash-free bonds or more affordable bond rates. They said they feared they would be fired if they didn't comply. (emphasis added)
So the magistrates' defense was that elected judges ordered them not to grant cash-free bonds! Too bad that admission wasn't part of the evidence in the case that went to the 5th Circuit, but there's a hearing tomorrow to decide whether these admissions amount to evidence the judges withheld in the civil case. Regardless, there's plenty of other evidence being considered that shows the same thing.

Kudos to state Sen. John Whitmire for filing the complaint, it got the magistrates to cop to some pretty important admissions.

RELATED: In Dallas, the Texas Fair Defense Project and the ACLU of Texas just filed new litigation similar to the bail suit in Harris County, in which TFDP is also participating. A press release came via email just minutes after Grits hit "publish" on this blog post. MORE: See coverage of the new case from the Dallas Morning News.

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