A first-cut reaction to Harris-County DA Kim Ogg's reasons for opposing bail reform
Why does Harris County DA Kim Ogg oppose the proposed bail-reform settlement in Houston? Let's dig into this bit by bit, starting with the four, bullet-pointed reasons stated in her amicus brief filed today. The bulleted items are her language, then my comments follow each of them:
- Accords unfettered and unreviewable discretion to misdemeanor judges and magistrates to delay (or outright excuse) misdemeanor defendants from appearing in court, contrary to Texas law.
Ogg's claim that the settlement is "contrary to Texas law" is overstated. The case law she quotes to support the argument says judges can waive appearances for "good cause" and leaves that undefined. You could drive a settlement-sized truck through that loophole. Throughout the brief, Ogg expresses the view that judges will use their discretion unreasonably. Where does this distrust of the judiciary come from? Judges have always had extraordinary authority, and historically used it to disproportionately favor outcomes presented to them by prosecutors. She never complained then!
- Increases institutional dysfunction in the criminal justice system by disproportionately favoring convenience to misdemeanor defendants without regard to the impact on victims, witnesses, and the other stakeholders and the State’s efforts to produce them for hearings and trials.
- Increases the capability of the defendant to challenge and defeat motions by the State of Texas by and through the District Attorney to set bail at any amount, increase the amount of bail recommended, or impose conditions of bail through exclusion of any mention or committed support for the District Attorney in the Proposed Settlement, while guaranteeing such support for the defendant, Public Defender and all support services in Section VII.
- Imposes post-release policies through federal court settlement instead of through democratic processes, essentially foreclosing state and local government from developing constitutionally sound new policies as circumstances change and limited county resources dictate.
H/T: The Appeal. MORE: See Houston Chronicle coverage.