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Why Don’t the Judges just Do the Right Thing? 

Friends – 

In Harris County for years the misdemeanor judges systematically denied pr bonds. On misdemeanors they granted pr bonds on less than 10% of all Cases.  Poor people, unable to make surety bonds and denied pr bonds, were stuck in jail on misdemeanors. Daily, the poor would be brought to our 15 misdemeanor courts and presented with a Hobsons Choice- plead guilty and get out or plead not guilty and stay in. What did they do? For years the poor in this county pled guilty to misdemeanors to obtain their liberty. The Harris County misdemeanor judges knew Exactly what they were doing. This was all quite purposeful. The judges knew that by systematically denying pr bonds to the poor, they would corner the poor into pleading guilty. I called it the “Plea Mill”. The judges motive was obvious. They wanted to move their docket and it worked. For years, to no avail, I lobbied the misdemeanor judges to grant more pr bonds. In 2013, I sent a letter to all 15 Harris county criminal court judges. I urged them to grant more pr bonds on non-violent misdemeanors.

The judges response to my letter? Most ignored it, some offered lame excuses while others mocked me. How dare I question their foul system. Perhaps the misdemeanor judges should have heeded my call. Last year All of the Harris County Criminal Court Judges were finally sued in Federal Court for their systematic denial of pr bonds. The Honorable Lee Rosenthal ruled for the plaintiffs and issued sweeping orders mandating that the judges grant more pr bonds. The judges are still resistant and the matter is not yet over. I wonder, why don’t the judges at long last just do the right thing???  Haven’t enough poor people suffered. 

Robb Fickman, Houston 

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