This seems like a big deal.
Lawyers behind the civil rights case that upended the bail system for low-level offenses in Harris County have asked a federal judge to consider sanctioning sitting county judges, citing grave concerns that the county withheld evidence.
The controversy will likely come to head on Tuesday in an unusual federal court hearing in which all the judges in the bail lawsuit have been ordered to attend to sort out the dispute.
The attorneys in a class-action lawsuit brought by indigent defendants wrote the judge Wednesday to highlight “deeply troubling revelations” unearthed after the State Commission on Judicial Conduct issued rare sanctions issued to three county magistrates. On Jan. 10, the state admonished the trio for failing to follow the law and use discretion in granting personal bonds.
The conflict erupted after magistrates Joseph Licata III, Jill Wallace and Eric Hagstette told the commission they were acting under direction of the county judges, following rules that restricted them from granting cash-free bonds. They said they felt pressured to comply with these rules the judges provided.
This testimony appears to contradict what judges said under oath during a March hearing in federal court, according to attorneys for indigent defendants in the landmark bail case letter.
Throughout the injunction hearing, judges repeatedly said they never provided instructions to hearing officers about bail matters and magistrates had full reign to issue personal bonds.
There’s more, so go read the rest. I can’t wait to see what happens at Tuesday’s hearing. If the evidence here is credible, then among other things the 15 Republican judges on the misdemeanor court benches (*) don’t just deserve to be voted out, they deserve to be sanctioned like the magistrates were. Hold onto your hats. Mark Bennett has more.
(*) -The one Democratic judge on the misdemeanor courts, Darrell Jordan, has testified for the plaintiffs and as far as I can tell is not subject to this motion.