Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Federal suit challenges TX driver surcharges, debtors-prison practices account for 1/5 of jail admissions, and other stories

Here are a few browser-clearing odds and ends that merit Grits readers' attention:

Federal suit challenges driver surcharge
New federal civil rights litigation  from the group Equal Justice Under the Law has been filed challenging Texas' Driver Responsibility surcharge, reported the Houston Chronicle. See also: the original complaint in the case.

DPS to audit Austin PD rape-clearance definitions
Austin PD has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to audit how its categorizing cleared rape cases, reported the Austin Statesman. Good. Chief Manley's responses to the allegations before that had been insufficient.

Criminal charges finally cleared vs innocent SA-4
The San Antonio Four have finally had their false convictions expunged, reported the SA Express News.

TDCJ staff allegedly falsified disciplinary records, again
More Texas Department of Criminal Justice staff are under investigation for allegedly falsifying records to make their disciplinary statistics look better, reported the Houston Chronicle's Keri Blakinger. This is a major, ongoing story. There's no telling how deep this rabbit hole goes!

Levin: Debtors-prison policies account for one-fifth of jail admissions
In The Hill, the Texas Public Policy Foundation's Marc Levin had an op ed opposing state-and-local debtors-prison policies. About one-fifth of people entering county jails, Levin declared, are admitted because of failure to pay a government-imposed fine or fee.  RELATEDThreatening letters from a government debt collector. ALSO: N.b., as evidence of the populist basis for opposition to these mulct-the-public practices, a restaurant in D.C. had taken to giving people discounts if they bring in a traffic or parking ticket, and holding a raffle to pay off one person's ticket per month! AND MORE: Check out the Texas snapshot from a 50-state debtors-prison reform tool created by the Criminal Justice Policy Program at Harvard Law School.

De-funding Paxton special prosecutors may impact indigent defense
A Texas Observer report on the Court of Criminal Appeals decision in on payment of Attorney General Ken Paxton's prosecutors raised the same issue about indigent defense as did this Grits post.

8-year sentence for improper voting upheld
The Second Court of Appeals upheld the eight-year sentence of a woman who illegally voted in Tarrant County because she thought she was allowed. The court failed to reach the merits of the argument, declaring her lawyer had not properly preserved an objection. These cases are an embarrassment.

Annual report for Texas judicial support agencies
Read what's happening with a small constellation justice-related boards, commissions, and agencies you've probably never heard of.

Nativist knucklehead peddling anti-Muslim views to law enforcement
Read about a defrocked FBI agent now peddling anti-Muslim conspiracy theories to West Texas law enforcement. smh

McConnell balking on First Step Act
Senators have surpassed the number of yes votes that Mitch McConnell said were necessary to bring up the First Step Act, but the majority leader is still balking.

Other odds and ends
Here are a number of national items and stories from other states that caught Grits' eye this week:


Anonymous said...

Any look at the actions of Muslims in Texas has to be cast as anti-Muslim. Why do Houston mosques work so hard recruit violent criminals? The Imams are thick at Texas prison as they were at TYC facilities. Those of us who work or worked there know this story very well.

Anonymous said...

I only met Christian preachers when i was on Coffield, the only Muslims I saw were inmates, and everybody knew there were no Muslims on pork chop day so I'd hardly call them radical.

Anonymous said...

Oh whee, another DRP lawsuit that will go nowhere. There will be some reason why the case won't be heard, or no standing to sue, or "wrong venue" or some other excuse... and I also foresee 2019 as yet another year of sitting on this piece of junk, and watching "X number" of bills to repeal simply wither on the vine just as they have for the past 6 or 7 sessions. Business as usual in Texas.

Anonymous said...

While much has been done and accomplished to eliminate debtors prison for felony offenses and misdemeanor offenses, very little attention is being given to the percentage or number of people in jail everyday for failing to pay a traffic ticket or municipal fine?

If using prison/jail to collect debt for felony/misdemeanor offenses is unallowable shouldn't it be abolished for traffic fines and class c tickets?

Damn, it is mind blowing that Class C and failure to pay fines for traffic tickets still fill the jails to overflowing and it isn't even making the news.