Government report on Texas Bail hotly disputed

Published 2:49 pm Friday, February 4, 2022

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Study Omits Action by Texas Legislature and Key Federal Court of Appeals Rulings in Past Two Years

AUSTIN, Texas – A report issued by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, entitled “The Civil Rights Implications of Cash Bail,” is inaccurate and draws false conclusions through the omission of key information, at least as far as Texas is concerned, said the Professional Bondsmen of Texas.  The trade organization representing the bail industry in the Lone Star state criticized the 281-page report that was issued on January 13, for being selective and biased about the information it presented.

“It is appalling that an organization that proclaims to provide an overview of actions in select states would be so far off base with their facts,” said Mike Byrd, President of the Professional Bondsmen of Texas.  “When a report leaves out critical information and key details, and still represents that it is complete, the veracity of the entire study is called into question.”

The report purported to examine pretrial detention across the nation, both on the federal and state levels, but failed to agree on any possible solutions.

Six jurisdictions that either has or is in the process of enacting reforms were singled-out for scrutiny in the report: Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Nevada and the District of Columbia.

In the section on Texas, the report references litigation in the case of ODonnell v. Harris County, indicating that the last action on reforming bail in the state took place in 2019.  However, it omits significant actions taken by both the courts and the Texas legislature in the more than two years since that time.

In its most recent legislative session, Texas last year enacted Senate Bill 6, a significant bail reform package that limits the use of personal recognizance bonds for the most serious of offenses.  It also requires judges for the first time ever to review criminal histories before setting bail.  The bill also provides training for judges on the setting of bail.

The report also left out major actions taken by federal courts since 2019.  In a 2018 case entitled Daves v. Dallas County, plaintiff’s attorneys sued the county, along with the county and district court judges in an attempt to extend a ruling in ODonnell to district court judges, as well.  The federal trial court in Dallas allowed the ODonnell ruling to be extended, upon which the judges subsequently appealed.  In a 2021 panel decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed this holding, concluding that district court judges were states actors when they adopted bail schedules or set bail.  Therefore, they were not proper parties in a suit brought pursuant to 42 USC §1983.  The panel went even further and noted that they might have come to a different conclusion on ODonnell, but would follow the opinion. Thereafter, a motion for rehearing en banc was filed and granted.

Less than a month ago, the Fifth Circuit issued the en banc opinion in the Daves case which reversed the original ruling in ODonnell by Rosenthal, holding that both county court judges and district court judges were not proper parties for a suit filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983.

Mike Byrd added, “There is no other way to say this.  The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights report is both wrong on the facts and on the law regarding Texas.  This should call into question the credibility of its conclusions in its entirety.”

The Professional Bondsmen of Texas (“PBT”) was established in 1970 as the Texas Association of Professional Sureties.  Created to protect the Eight Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the organization changed to its present name in 1978.  Comprised of men and women in the bail bond business, PBT works to support and assist its membership in the advancement of their industry, while defending the constitutionally guaranteed right to bail for all.