Saturday, June 23, 2018

Judges rubber stamping capital writs, warrants now required for cell-phone location data, managed-assigned-counsel systems still suck, and other stories

Here are a few odds and ends that merit readers' attention:

Austin admits police oversight system didn't do much
Grits has said for years that Austin's civilian review panel for police was more or less worthless as oversight. They make fine recommendations, but none of them are ever implemented, as the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition demonstrated in a report last year. Now, a city auditor's report has agreed, finding that none of the civilian review panel's recommendations under the old system were ever implemented. See coverage from the Austin Monitor.

Lawsuit: Austin PD failed to properly investigate sexual assault cases
See coverage from the Daily Beast. Putting a pin in this one to look at later. Given that Austin PD's DNA lab has already been shut down because they were performing the tests wrong, it's not hard to imagine some cases aren't aggressively pursued when they should be.

Bexar should reject calls for managed-assigned-counsel
The SA Express News editorial board argued that Bexar County needs to a) spend more on indigent defense but also b) spend more on oversight to make sure it's getting quality defense for the money it's spending. They should stop promoting the Managed Assigned Counsel program, which has been a disaster in Austin. What Bexar County needs is a full-blown public defender office, and not just for mental-health cases.

Harris County judges rubber stamp DA findings in capital writs
In 96 percent of state capital habeas cases since 1995, judges in Harris County simply adopted proposed findings of fact written by the prosecution, according to this analysis from the Houston Law Review. See this summary of the analysis compiled by The Open File.

Paxton sides against local GOP judges in bail litigation
Positioning himself opposite the Republican judges who've spent more than $6 million fighting bail reform in Harris County, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is seeking to have lawsuits dismissed which were filed by Harris County magistrates against the State Commission on Judicial Conduct after that agency had sanctioned them. The judges in Houston fighting bail reform are becoming increasingly isolated. The bail bond industry is nearly their only remaining ally, given that statewide elected officials like the Attorney General and the Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice haven't backed their play.

Settlement in pool party police assault
The girl who was famously slammed down by police at a McKinney pool party has entered into a settlement with the city, reported The Root. " According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, under the terms of the settlement, ... plaintiffs in the case, were awarded a total of $184,850 last month, with $148,850 of that amount going to" the principle victim. ALSO: The Statesman has the story of another high-profile civil rights suit against a police officer out of Mesquite who tazed a teenager in the groin in a situation where the boy ultimately died.

SCOTUS: Protect cell-phone location data with warrant requirement
I haven't had time yet to read the new Carpenter decision from the US Supreme Court on when law enforcement must get a warrant to access cell-phone location data and when they don't need one. But the fact that Orin Kerr is grumpy means I'm likely to like it. Regular readers may recall that Grits had previewed the case around Christmastime with a poetic homage.


Gadfly said...

The Carpenter sounds interesting ... and adds fuel to the fire that the Umpire is becoming, at least selectively, somewhat of a centrist on the court.

Tom said...

Some years ago, I had a live hearing on a writ and at the end of the hearing, the judge said she was granting relief to my client. Good.
Then, she refused to sign my findings of fact and instead signed the State's. And, of course, they had a few hidden Easter eggs so the grant flipped on appeal.
Thanks, Judge. That's doing your job.

Anonymous said...

Grits: The rubber-stamping of prosecutors' "Findings of Fiction and Delusions of Law" is not unique to Harris County. It's an almost universal practice. If judges actually did their job in habeas cases and read the submissions of both parties, they would have little time for anything else. IMHO the practice should be for the judge to write his/her own findings and conclusions, and submit them to the parties for comment/correction before filing. But that would require the judge to both read the entire case record and to conduct legal research (gasp!), and that just doesn't happen except in a tiny handful of cases.