Criminal Court at Law Judges in Houston Demand an Immediate Injunction to Stop Judge Rosenthal’s Order in the Harris County Bail Case, Citing Irreparable Harm to the Community.
May 9, 2018
Houston, TX – The fallout from Federal Judge Lee Rosenthal’s order in the Harris County bail case, ODonnell v. Harris County, et al., continues.
Despite the Fifth Circuit having held that Judge Rosenthal’s order was “overbroad” and must be modified or rescinded, Judge Rosenthal has for months refused to change the order, allowing the Plaintiffs one more hail mary at the Fifth Circuit to try to give the judge the power – through what would be a legal backdoor – to order the Sheriff to continue to release defendants on “unsecured sheriff’s bonds.”
In court filings late last week, the Harris County Criminal Court at Law Judges told a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that enough is simply enough. In their motion, the Judges are requesting “the court to stay the District Court’s invalidated preliminary injunction,“ informing the panel that Judge Lee Rosenthal’s order has created a “law enforcement and public safety crisis.” Said the Judges:
Roughly half of all unsecured release bonds issued pursuant to the preliminary injunction have been forfeited because the arrestee failed to appear for his or her court date. Literally thousands of criminal defendants released pursuant to the District Court’s order have evaded their day in court, and justice, by failing to appear.
The Judges pulled no punches when describing to the panel why they feel they are suffering “grievous irreparable harm”:
The District Court’s order is wreaking havoc upon Harris County’s ability to operate a functioning criminal justice system. There is good reason why secured money bail has been an integral part of the American criminal justice system since the Founding: secured money bail helps ensure appearance at trial. Since the preliminary injunction went into effect, a staggering 49.3 percent of all unsecured personal bonds issued in obedience to the preliminary injunction—an average of nearly 20 per day—have been forfeited because the arrestee failed to appear in court. By comparison, only 10 percent of secured money bonds have been forfeited for this reason. Accused criminals cannot be brought to justice or deterred from committing future crimes when a federal court order neuters state courts’ ability to compel those suspects to answer the charges against them and, if convicted, to serve their sentences.
Not exactly the rosy picture bail reformers predicted would happen, and certainly not something they can continue to blame on natural disasters or other unrelated phenomena. It is important to keep in mind that when surety bonds are forfeited, bail agents are 100% financially responsible and will cure the forfeiture by returning those defendants to court – or pay the entire amount of the forfeiture. The outcome of Judge Rosenthal’s order is even worse than it appears on its face.
As we reported last week, the Arnold Foundation, who is the Harris County vendor paying in part for the lawsuits against Harris County, which has cost the county in excess of $7 million in legal expenses, is also the proprietor of the Public Safety Risk Assessment tool.
Relying on the Arnold Foundation instead of secured bail is what the Arnold Foundation wants, and yet public officials in Houston continue to allow the Arnold Foundation to engage in its social re-engineering. That should come as no surprise—if they didn’t, we are sure the Arnold Foundation would find more ways to sue Harris County, costing taxpayers more millions – just so the conscience of the Enron-enriched founders of the Foundation can be properly soothed as they continue their country-club lifestyle.
The failure of Judge Rosenthal’s order of free releases, without regard to public safety, has reached critical mass with the latest statistics reported. There can be absolutely no doubt that when criminals get a free pass at the pretrial phase of justice, they will thumb their nose at the system.
And as we previously mentioned, many charged that have been set free without consequence go on to graduate to more severe criminal activity because they know the system will simply let them get away with it. In fact, failing to appear in court in Harris County, Texas would actually be a good legal strategy because there is really no way that the police will ever re-arrest thousands and thousands of fugitives.
From here, we fully expect to hear another round of excuses from the Plaintiffs’ Attorneys. We are certain they are: (1) attempting to come up with a litany of other excuses to try to explain the failure they assured the judge would never happen; or, (2) they are hoping hurricane season comes early so they have something else to pin the failures on.