Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Appeal of Harris bail suit withdrawn, lazy judges cause jail overcrowding, and the paradox of progressive prosecutors

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

Appeal withdrawn in Harris Co bail suit
The new Harris County misdemeanor court judges have withdrawn their appeal in ongoing federal bail litigation of the 5th Circuit's ruling that inmates must be released within 48 hours. The Houston Chronicle's Keri Blakinger and Gabi Banks reported that the county has spent $9 million fighting Judge Lee Rosenthal's order.

Lazy judges contribute to jail overcrowding, colleague charges
Eric Dexheimer kicked off his new role at the Austin bureau of the Houston Chronicle with a bang, publishing a great story on why the Hays County Jail is overcrowded despite declining crime. One of the judges has accused his colleagues of working less than half time!

Less News
The Dallas News' staff cuts on the eve of the Texas Legislature made me depressed. Whether or not the paper cuts its capitol bureau, that's a big loss. And I was pissed to learn the company that cut the staff just gave executives $1.2 million in bonuses. Grits presently has subscriptions to five Texas dailies and two national papers. It was six, but the Star-Telegram finally cut its staff so much there wasn't enough news I cared about being published to justify a subscription. I'm not saying the product at the Morning News will become that sparse, but I'm worried about them, not to mention everyone laid off. Godspeed to one and all. People beat up on the daily press, including me sometimes, but we all rely on them.

Ignored to Death
From Michael Barajas at the Texas Observer: "Ignored to death at the Bexar County Jail." I always get nervous when Texans start touting their methods as a "national model," as folks in San Antonio are wont to do about mental-health services in their justice system. Anytime you're asking corrections people to deliver medical care as an aspect of punishment - whether mental health services, drug treatment, you name it - the system is reaching beyond its ken. In this case, a schizophrenic woman was arrested last summer and jailed for Class B criminal trespass. She received no treatment for her schizophrenia, spent five months in jail waiting on a psych evaluation that never came, then died of a heart attack two weeks before Christmas.

Changing of the guard in McLennan County
See coverage of the Barry Johnson, the new McLennan Coutny District Attorney who ousted Abel Reyna, and the wave of retirements and other departures poised to bring big changes among judgeships at the McLennan County courthouse over the next couple of years.

Paradox of the Progressive Prosecutor: Urban v. Rural
For Grits' reading list: Harvard Law Review, "The Paradox of the Progressive Prosecutor." Here's an unmentioned paradox: In Texas, with the lingering exception of Tarrant County, our urban District Attorneys are almost all Democrats promoting reform ideas. However, the state prosecutors' association's board is dominated by rural DAs pushing more regressive agendas, with key staff held over from the era when Chuck Rosenthal and John Bradley dominated the group's politics. Perhaps it's time for an Urban Prosecutors Association in Texas. Why should taxpayers in urban counties seeking reform finance a rural-dominated association through dues that's constantly opposing that agenda?


Gadfly said...

Same time, it's kind of hypocritical from someone at privately-held Hearst to be calling out the Snooze on C-suite pay ethics.

Gadfly said...

Oh, and the StartleGram should just kill its Monday issue. It's down to 16 pages most weeks. They don't run obits on Mondays. Bud Kennedy is officially listed as entertainment or something, not an op-ed columnist.

Gadfly said...

And, on the management side, I'd argue that these downsizings, while sad, aren't surprising. In dealing with all things digital, the Snooze has had a decade-plus of mixed arrogance and stupidity. You CAN, though, AFAIK, still get a "beer" T-shirt for ONLY 24.99 at the Snooze's online store: https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2019/01/the-dallas-morning-news-is-snoozing.html

Anonymous said...

Re. the articles about the lady who died in the Bexar County Jail - she had court appointed counsel who seems to have done nothing. Counsel was appointed in early August. His client died in December. He could possibly have had the case dismissed, given the nature of the charge and the lady's history of mental illness. According to reports I've read, the appointed attorney never even met his client. It would be interesting if we knew what he has to say about this situation.

So far as I know, another Bexar County defendant, was at one point declared incompetent to stand trial with no possibility of restoration, but has subsequently been cycled through the system, and acquired further convictions, simply because subsequent appointed attorneys didn't bother to check their client's history.

One wonders if the Commission on Mental health set up in January 2018 is doing anything to prevent these sorts of situation (e.g. monitoring the performance of counsel in such cases, logging previous instances of a defendant being found incompetent in order to "red flag" that issue for future occasions). In fact, what is that Commission doing? We aren't hearing anything.

LC in Texas said...

" she had court appointed counsel who seems to have done nothing." This is no surprise!
Court appointed counsel works for the court. The court appointed counselors fear the Judge, at least 3 counselors have admitted to me that they have to go before these Judges everyday. One Judge considers himself God and stated the same.

MCJ said...

Barry Johnson appears to be aggressively taking on the backlog of cases left by his predecessor. It is very interesting the Governor took a pass on the local judge and appointed the Judge from Burleson. Grits might find this write up interesting. http://www.pasotx.com/?p=257 It has details, with documentation, of how a District Judge made felony charges disappear against a county commissioner and 30 days later asked the court for $100,000.00 in staff raises.