Harris County filing to the nation’s highest court, asking for another halt to the ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal, is unconscionable, especially where they cite irreparable harm, what about the irreparable harm, suffered by the poor pretrial defendants, held in jail unable to post bond.” Johnny N. Mata, Greater Houston Coalition for Justice”, When will greed be replaced by compassion?
Johnny N. Mata
GHCFJ Presiding officer
Harris County appeals bail case ruling to U.S. Supreme Court
Updated 8:23 pm, Tuesday, June 6, 2017
A federal appeals court ruling earlier Tuesday had greenlighted the release of hundreds of poor inmates held in the Harris County Jail on misdemeanor charges ahead of their trials, and Sheriff Ed Gonzalez prepared for the release of as many as 177 people starting Wednesday morning.
The county’s request went to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles appeals requests from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Thomas can either rule on the matter himself or take it to the full court, according to the county attorney’s office.
Two civil rights groups – Texas Fair Defense Project and Civil Rights Corps – and local law firm Susman Godfrey filed the lawsuit last year on behalf of Maranda ODonnell, a single mother who was held for two days on a charge of driving without a valid license because she couldn’t afford the $2,500 bail. Similar lawsuits filed on behalf of two other people were merged into the case in August.
On Tuesday morning, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit Court determined that Rosenthal’s ruling would remain in effect until the case goes to trial. The ruling set in motion the release of up to 177 misdemeanor detainees, who do not have money to pay cash bail and who do not have other restrictions such as mental health evaluations or federal detainers.
The inmates affected by the ruling account for about 2 percent of the total jail population of 8,800, sheriff’s officials said.
The county will comply with Rosenthal’s order until the U.S. Supreme Court weighs in.
“We know we all have to follow the order of a federal district court,” said Robert Soard, the first assistant county attorney. “We’re working with both the sheriff and pretrial services, and we’re going to try to accomplish that as seamlessly as we can.”
The sheriff’s office expected to begin releasing qualified inmates early Wednesday.
“It doesn’t mean that 177 people will walk out,” said Jason Spencer, spokesman for the sheriff. “That would be the absolute highest number. In all likelihood it will be less than that.”
About 10 detention officers representing the two jail facilities and the processing center met with command staff Tuesday afternoon for a debriefing on how the release would take place.
Rosenthal’s ruling calls for the release on personal bonds for low-level misdemeanor defendants who do not have money to pay cash bail. John Martin, a major with the sheriff’s office, said jail staff will meet with inmates and ask about their ability to make bail.
Rosenthal’s order also requires new procedures for releasing newly arrested people who don’t have the resources to pay cash bond. Rosenthal said officials have 24 hours from the moment of arrest to determine whether a person’s ability to post bond.
Spencer said the sheriff and his staff feel ready.
“This is a new process,” he said. “We believe we’re in a good position. We’ve already laid the groundwork for it. We’re going to have to work out any kinks that arise.”
The county had argued that Rosenthal erred in her 193-page ruling earlier this year, which found the county’s cash bail system was unconstitutional, and continued to make that argument in its emergency appeal to the Supreme Court Tuesday. That request seeks a new delay for Rosenthal’s order.
At the same time, the county will continue appealing the full order, which they argue releases potentially dangerous inmates and eliminates judicial discretion.
Josh Blackman, a civil law expert at South Texas College of Law-Houston who is not involved in the case, said the county must comply with Rosenthal’s ruling regardless of an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Blackman and another independent expert — David Coale, a partner with the Dallas law firm Lynn Pinker Cox and Hurst — said the 5th Circuit judges who issued the ruling were a “representative cross-section” of the full court, with two Republican appointees and one Obama appointee.
The judges’ decision Tuesday suggests the county may face an uphill battle as the underlying appeal continues, the experts said.
“It’s not a guarantee that the county’s going to lose, by any means, but it is a cautionary note for the county, that the court may perceive some legal flaws,” Coale said.
“It’s not saying how they’re going to rule on the merits,” Blackman said, “but it’s a big signal.”
Gabrielle Banks contributed to this report.
Harris County appeals judge’s ruling in bail lawsuit
Updated 3:16 pm, Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Harris County has appealed a federal civil rights lawsuit that challenged the county’s bail system, despite rising legal costs that have neared $3 million.
After a heated discussion and a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners Court voted 4-1 to appeal the suit and to ask for a delay to a May 15 start date that would require the county to consider an inmate’s ability to pay when setting bail.
Elizabeth Rossi, an attorney from Civil Rights Corps, who represents indigent defendants held in jail because they cannot afford their bail rates said her clients “are disappointed to learn that the county and the judges are appealing Chief Judge Rosenthal’s thorough and comprehensive decision but we are confident that every judge to review it will agree with her and uphold it.” Rossi said her team would “vigorously” oppose a motion for a stay.
“We believe the system she wants to implement is arguably not legal,” County Attorney Vince Ryan said.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who has pushed for settlement, cast the the lone vote against the decision to appeal.
“This is really asking the court to give you the funds to appeal,” he said.
A call to action on Texas Governor and legislators Cinco de Mayo assault on Hispanics civil rights and civil liberty by the passage of Sanctuary Cities
On January 25, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed executive orders calling for the construction of a “large physical barrier on the southern border,” while the second reinstated the Secure Communities Program, which Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) uses to “target illegal immigrants for removal.” It also directs the State Department to withhold visas or take other measures to ensure countries take back deported undocumented immigrants and strips federal grant money from sanctuary cities that harbor undocumented immigrants.
Supporters of the sanctuary cities ban, which Gov. Greg Abbott declared a legislative emergency in January, say local law enforcement agencies should enforce federal immigration laws. They worry that unauthorized immigrants who are released from jail instead of being turned over to immigration officials could go on to commit more serious crimes.
But local officials and others who oppose the ban say the measure would erode trust in law enforcement officials in immigrant communities, making their cities and counties less safe.
Source: Dallas Morning News reporter James Barragan March 15, 2017
What is going on this child’s mind? Could her facial
expression be concerns, will her parents be deported.
Now these two politicians are trying to force the hands of local law enforcement leaders by either taking away state and federal funds from their agencies if they do not enforce immigration laws or to even try and have sheriffs removed from office if they do not enforce immigration laws.
In my opinion, the idea of the president or governor to take away funds that are used to go after drug traffickers, gun runners, money launders, human traffickers, etc. from local law enforcement leaders will actually make Texas and the USA less safe! Especially when independent study after independent study has proven that the increased deportation efforts did not reduce the crime rate!
In all of my years of involvement in the field of Human/Civil Rights I have never seen our Nation in such a state of disarray, uncertainly, and its people fearful of their citizenship or immigration status.
Government at the highest level go against the dignity and respect of it citizens, immigrants, by infringement of civil liberty of American born persons of color, by targeting immigrants, foreigners through Executive Orders, and Legislation mandate.
“It is incredible that President Trump and Governor Abbott are trying to eliminate ability of elected officials’ to decide what are the best policies for their respective communities. This is an encroachment on the local control of elected officials who campaigned and were elected on their policy ideas and agenda.
What about City and County Rights?
Houston is the most diverse city in the country, with hospitality second to none, it has always faced whatever challenge it has encountered.
The Greater Houston Coalition For Justice, a multi-culture coalition appeal to all Houstonians and Texans to contact, your elected officials to Support GHCFJ’s Board of Directors resolution to denounce the passage of SB 4 and HB 889 in State Affairs Committee in the 85th Texas legislation and oppose all anti-Hispanic/ persons of color legislation that that delude existing Racial Profiling legislate law.
Johnny N. Mata
Greater Houston Coalition for Justice