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Case Name Russell v. Harris County, TX CJ-TX-0016
Docket / Court 4:19-cv-00226 ( S.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Jail Conditions
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Fines/Fees/Bail Reform (Criminalization of poverty)
Attorney Organization Civil Rights Corps
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a preexisting class action addressing issues in Harris County Jail with indigent felony detainees who remain detained solely because they cannot pay the amount necessary for release on secured money bail. On March 27, 2020, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a preexisting class action addressing issues in Harris County Jail with indigent felony detainees who remain detained solely because they cannot pay the amount necessary for release on secured money bail. On March 27, 2020, the plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order because they are in extreme danger of being exposed to COVID-19 while they are in jail only because they cannot pay enough to be released. The motion for a TRO was denied on April 14.


On January 21, 2019, indigent pretrial detainees in Harris County Jail filed this lawsuit in the Southern District of Texas. The plaintiff sued Harris County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 2201 et seq. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and the Civil Rights Corps sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The plaintiffs claimed that their 14th Amendment rights to Equal Protection and their substantive due process rights were being violated. Specifically, they alleged that the defendants were operating a system of wealth-based detention that kept them in jail simply because they could not afford to pay the bail amounts, without appropriate findings about the necessity of pretrial detention or the plaintiff's ability to pay.

The March 27, 2020 motion for a temporary restraining order discussed the plaintiff's concerns over COVID-19, namely the inability of the jail's limited services to care for the 8,000 individuals in the tight quarters of the jail if members of the population started getting sick. The plaintiffs argued that subjecting them to a heightened risk of contracting the virus, separating them from their families, interrupting medications and medical care, and taking them from their homes was not necessary to serve the government's interest in preventing flight or assuring public safety. They also argued that the pandemic had made it more difficult for them to receive constitutional protections, specifically because their court appearances were cancelled and visits with lawyers have been postponed. Ultimately, the plaintiffs sought an emergency order requiring the defendants to not to enforce existing pretrial detention orders, and asked for their request to be heard as quickly as possible to prevent further irreparable harm to the plaintiffs.

On March 29, 2020, the State of Texas, the Governor of Texas, and the Attorney General filed a motion to intervene to defend the bail procedures. They argued that the defendants in this case "do not contest" any of the plaintiffs' arguments." They noted that on March 27, the Court ordered the Attorney General--a non-party--"to respond to the plaintiffs motion" requesting a temporary restraining order. The noted that the Attorney General intended to respond, but asked that the Court grant the motion to intervene to allow full participation as a party.

The plaintiffs replied the next day. They did not oppose the intervention of the Texas Attorney General, but noted that "many of the factual claims and legal principles cited in the memorandum are not correct." Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal granted the State of Texas, Governor of Texas, and the Attorney General's motion to intervene.

The defendants and the Texas Attorney General responded to the plaintiffs' motion on April 1. That same day, the plaintiffs filed another motion for a temporary restraining order, this time against Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA 13. The executive order, issued in light of COVID-19, allowed pretrial detainees to be released if they paid bail regardless of any individualized proceedings or findings by a state court judge, but halted individualized determinations. The plaintiffs requested a temporary restraining order prohibiting enforcement of Executive Order GA 13 to the extent that it bars such individualized bail determinations.

On April 6, the state intervenors filed their response to the temporary restraining order regarding Executive Order GA 13. They argued that plaintiffs the plaintiffs did not have standing because they had not received an injury from the executive order, and that sovereign immunity barred the court from awarding relief against them as the State Intervenors.

On April 11, the plaintiffs notified the court that a Texas district court had issued a temporary restraining order that found Executive Order GA 13 to be unconstitutional under Texas law and enjoined Executive Order GA 13 from being enforced against judges.

On April 14, Judge Rosenthal denied the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order. The opinion stated that the plaintiffs were likely to show a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim, but that they had not met their burden of showing that their release would be in the public interest. Furthermore, the county had implemented plans to identify those who were deemed safe for release, which had resulted in 372 releases as of April 13. The opinion allowed the plaintiffs to restate their claims if the county's efforts failed, or to move for class certification and motion for a preliminary injunction as to their underlying case, which could prove their entitlement to relief on a fuller record.

On May 6, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint, which added two named plaintiffs as well as additional details regarding Governor Abbott's Executive Order GA-13. They also filed a motion to lift the stay on the case.

Judge Rosenthal granted the motion to lift the stay on May 16, as it was no longer opposed by the defendants.

On June 26 the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint, adding additional facts to the complaint regarding several judges who had moved to intervene in the case.

On July 10, the state intervenor-defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs had received the constitutionally-required bail process and thus could not adequately plead their procedural due process or equal protection claims. The County defendants also filed a motion to dismiss on July 30. The plaintiffs responded to the state intervenors' motion on August 27.

The case is still ongoing.

Caitlin Kierum - 09/27/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Bail/Bond
Conditions of confinement
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Requested
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) Harris County
Plaintiff Description Indigent pretrial detainees who are kept in the defendant's jail because they cannot afford bail
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Civil Rights Corps
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Unknown
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 01/21/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing CJ-TX-0010 : O'Donnell v. Harris County (S.D. Tex.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Harris County, TX: Bail
http://www.civilrightscorps.org/
Date: Mar. 27, 2020
By: Civil Rights Corps
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:19-cv-226 (S.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0016-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/25/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
CJ-TX-0016-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/21/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 32]
CJ-TX-0016-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Exhibits A through F of Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 32-1 through 32-6]
CJ-TX-0016-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Exhibit H through Exhibit K of Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 32-8 through 32-12]
CJ-TX-0016-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Part 1/3 of Exhibit G of Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 32-7]
CJ-TX-0016-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Part 2 of Exhibit G of Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 32-7]
CJ-TX-0016-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Part 3/3 of Exhibit G of Motion and Memorandum in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 32-7]
CJ-TX-0016-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opposed Motion to Intervene by the State of Texas, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, and Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas and Memorandum in Support [ECF# 38]
CJ-TX-0016-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Supplemental Brief in Support of Motion for Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 44]
CJ-TX-0016-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Response to Attorney General's Motion to Intervene [ECF# 45]
CJ-TX-0016-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Unopposed Motion to Intervene [ECF# 46] (S.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0016-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Executive Order GA 13 [ECF# 53-1] (S.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0016-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction Regarding Executive Order GA 13 [ECF# 53, 53-2, 53-3, 53-4, 53-5]
CJ-TX-0016-0014.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Intervenors' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 54, 56]
CJ-TX-0016-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/01/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Response to the Court's Question [ECF# 66]
CJ-TX-0016-0015.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Intervenors' Response to Plaintiffs' Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction Regarding Executive Order GA 13 [ECF# 67]
CJ-TX-0016-0016.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Notice of New Authority [ECF# 104 & 104-1]
CJ-TX-0016-0017.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/09/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Temporary Restraining Order Against Executive Order GA 13 [ECF# 112 & 112-1 & 112-2]
CJ-TX-0016-0018.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 122] (2020 WL 1866835) (S.D. Tex.)
CJ-TX-0016-0019.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/14/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Filing of First Amended Complaint with New Parties [ECF# 140]
CJ-TX-0016-0020.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/06/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Filing Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 195 (& 195-1 to 195-2)]
CJ-TX-0016-0021.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/26/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Answer of Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and Request for Declaratory Relief [ECF# 197]
CJ-TX-0016-0022.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/29/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
State Intervenors' Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 214]
CJ-TX-0016-0023.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/10/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Response to Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Conduct Discovery [ECF# 218]
CJ-TX-0016-0024.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Omnibus Response to the 20 District Judges' and the State Intervenors' Motions to Dismiss [ECF# 259]
CJ-TX-0016-0025.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/27/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Emergency Motion to Compel Injunctive [ECF# 284]
CJ-TX-0016-0026.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Rosenthal, Lee Hyman (S.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0001 | CJ-TX-0016-0019 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brown, Liyah (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Cornelio, Natalia M (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0006 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Gervais, Michael (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0014 | CJ-TX-0016-0015 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Grinstein, Joseph S. (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0006 | CJ-TX-0016-0014 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Hadaway, Elizabeth (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0006
Harding, Meagan Taylor (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Karakatsanis, Alec (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0006 | CJ-TX-0016-0014 | CJ-TX-0016-0015 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0020 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Manne, Neal S. (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0006 | CJ-TX-0016-0014 | CJ-TX-0016-0015 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0020 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Marziani, Mimi Murray Digby (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0014 | CJ-TX-0016-0015 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Rossi, Elizabeth Anne (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0006 | CJ-TX-0016-0014 | CJ-TX-0016-0015 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0020 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Steffensen, Peter B (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
White, Lexie Giselle (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0002 | CJ-TX-0016-0003 | CJ-TX-0016-0004 | CJ-TX-0016-0006 | CJ-TX-0016-0017 | CJ-TX-0016-0018 | CJ-TX-0016-0021 | CJ-TX-0016-0025
Defendant's Lawyers Abbott, Greg (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0013
Bangert, Ryan L (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0024
Biggs, Adam Arthur (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0007 | CJ-TX-0016-0012 | CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Bohuslav, Matthew (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0012 | CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023
Corbello, Courtney Brooke (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0024 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Dickerson, Todd (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Diggs, Matthew (Washington) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Draper, Brandon Marc (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Durfee, Scott Anthony (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Fogler, Murray (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0022 | CJ-TX-0016-9000
Fraser, Rachel (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Gdula, Kimberly Ann (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Hardin, Don Bradford Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Hudson, Eric Alan (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023
Jimenez, Victoria Lynn (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Kase, Kathryn M. (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Landon, Emily Marie (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Liounakos, Anastasia (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Merideth, Caroline Alyssa (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Molinare, Shanna Elizabeth (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0024
Pena, Jonathan M (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Spinks, Melissa Lynn (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Stafford, Dominique Gelene (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0012 | CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023
Van Fleet, G. Allan (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Wade, Landon Allen (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Other Lawyers Albright, Thomas A. (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0007 | CJ-TX-0016-0012 | CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023
Mateer, Jeffrey C (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0007 | CJ-TX-0016-0012 | CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023 | CJ-TX-0016-0024
McCarty, Darren L (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0007 | CJ-TX-0016-0012 | CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023 | CJ-TX-0016-0024
Paxton, Ken (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-0007 | CJ-TX-0016-0012 | CJ-TX-0016-0016 | CJ-TX-0016-0023 | CJ-TX-0016-0024
Pennell, Kevin R (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000
Polland, Gary M (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0016-9000

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