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Case Name Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association v. Abbott CJ-TX-0017
Docket / Court D-1-GN-20-002034 ( State Court )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Criminal Justice (Other)
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a challenge to the Texas governor's order to limit bail for detainees accused of violent offenses, filed by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and sixteen Harris County Judges. The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the order was unconstitutional, as ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a challenge to the Texas governor's order to limit bail for detainees accused of violent offenses, filed by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and sixteen Harris County Judges. The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the order was unconstitutional, as well as a temporary and permanent injunction and a temporary restraining order (TRO) prohibiting the defendants from enforcing it. On April 10, the court granted the TRO, but the Texas Supreme Court overturned the decision after finding that the judicial plaintiffs lacked standing and therefore lacked subject matter jurisdiction.


On April 8, 2020, the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the Capital Area Private Defender Service, the Austin Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, and several other organizations filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas, challenging Governor Abbott’s order to limit bail release across the state.

On March 29, Governor Abbott issued executive order GA-13, which removed the discretion from judges regarding who could receive personal bonds, and banned the use of personal bonds for certain detainees. Specifically, the order prohibited the no-cost release of people accused of violent offenses, or those previously convicted of a violent felony. However, those who were able to pay bail could still be released on personal bonds regardless of their charges.

The plaintiffs alleged that the order created a “wealth-based system” of release and discriminated against those unable to afford cash bail. Further, the plaintiffs noted that GA-13 worsened prison overcrowding by holding individuals in pretrial detention at a time when jails populations already faced heightened susceptibility to COVID-19. The plaintiffs alleged that GA-13 suspended the Texas Code of Criminal Code Procedure pertaining to release and the discretion of judges on release decisions. The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendant overstepped this statutory and constitutional authority as Governor in violation of the Texas Disaster Act 1975 and the Texas Constitution, which states that the power to suspend laws lies with the legislature.

Included in the group of plaintiffs were sixteen of Harris County’s judges, who sued in response to GA-13’s changes in rules regarding judges’ decisions regarding pre-trial bail. First, the judicial plaintiffs alleged that GA-13 improperly deprived them of the judicial discretion to consider pre-trial released granted by the Texas constitution. Second, the judges contended that the order caused confusion among the courts, as judges were forced to choose between applying federal consent decree, mandating individualized bail decisions, versus GA-13, which prohibited all discretion on personal bonds. Shortly after Governor Abbott’s order, in a separate case, County Judge Lina Hidalgo issued an order to release pretrial detention inmates on April 1. On April 3, another Harris County judge blocked the release of the individuals specified in Judge Hidaglo’s decision,resulting in a conflicting order. Additionally, another competing federal civil rights request was filed, seeking an emergency injunction for those being held pretrial due to a lack of bail funds.

The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that GA-13 was unconstitutional, as well as a temporary and permanent injunction prohibiting the defendants from enforcing GA-13. The plaintiffs also sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to preserve the status quo, pending the decision on the validity of GA-13 and attorney fees. The plaintiffs were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Fair Defense Project. The case was assigned to Judge Lee Rosenthal.

On April 10, the district court granted the TRO, citing unconstitutional provisions and overreach of executive power by the Governor. The following day, the defendants filed an appeal to the Texas Supreme court, seeking to vacate the district court’s TRO. That same day, April 11, the Texas Supreme Court granted the stay, reviving Abbott’s order. The plaintiffs submitted a response in opposition to the appellants’ writ of mandamus on April 13.

On April 23, the Texas Supreme Court conditionally granted mandamus and overturned the district court’s TRO. The Supreme Court decided that the sixteen judicial plaintiffs’ alleged injury due to GA-13 was too generalized to create a legal standing. Therefore, the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to rule in favor of the judges’ authority to make individualized bail decisions when the TRO was issued. The case is ongoing.

Averyn Lee - 06/21/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief denied
Preliminary relief granted
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Bail/Bond
Conditions of confinement
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Governor of Texas
Plaintiff Description the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and sixteen Harris County Judges
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
None
Source of Relief None yet
None
Filed 04/08/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association et al v. Abbott
ACLU Texas
Date: Apr. 23, 2020
By: ACLU Texas
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Plaintiffs' Original Petition and Application for Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction
CJ-TX-0017-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/08/2020
Source: Public.Resource.Org
Temporary Restraining Order & Order Setting Hearing for Temporary Injunction
CJ-TX-0017-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/10/2020
Source: ACLU
[Opinion] (2020 WL 1943226)
CJ-TX-0017-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | External Link | Detail
Date: 04/23/2020
Source: ACLU
show all people docs
Judges Livingston, Lora Court not on record show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0003
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ago, Arthur (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Buskey, Brandon (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Caspar, Edward G. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Dixon, Karly Jo (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Donatti, David A. (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Fennell, Nathan (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Fraser, Rachel (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Gerrick, Emily (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Klosterboer, Brian (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Pinon, Adriana (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Ryan, Vince (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Segura, Andre (Texas) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001
Woods, Andrea (New York) show/hide docs
CJ-TX-0017-0001

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