Federal Judge Rules Pasadena’s Election System Unconstitutional

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelJanuary 10, 2017 12:51 pm

A white Fort Worth police officer who was captured on video forcefully arresting Jacqueline Craig – a black woman – and two of her daughters has been suspended without pay for 10 days. The disciplinary action comes after an almost three-week internal investigation into the Dec. 21 incident.

Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald made the announcement yesterday afternoon.

“Some of the things that transpired did not need to happen,” he said. “I can tell you this, there were actions that he took that were legal and that’s the reason why these actions and the totality of this will go to the grand jury.”

The officer has been identified as William A. Martin.

Fitzgerald added that when the suspension is up Martin will need to return to the same community where he arrested Craig to “repair relationships.”

Craig’s attorney has called for Officer Martin to be fired.

A federal judge has ruled that Pasadena’s system of elections discriminates against Latino residents. And now that Judge Lee Rosenthal has declared the city’s method of electing local officials unconstitutional, Pasadena officials are weighing their options.

Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider has more:

“Up to 2013, Pasadena city council members were all elected by single-member districts, drawn along geographic lines,” Schneider says. “Latino-backed candidates held four out of eight seats and looked close to winning a fifth. Then the Supreme Court struck down portions of the Voting Rights Act. Within weeks, Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell began promoting a plan to switch to mix of single-member districts and at-large seats.”

Schneider reports that Nina Perales, from the civil rights group MALDEF, represented the plaintiffs against Pasadena. Perales said that switch was designed to benefit Anglo-backed candidates.

“No, cities and counties and states don’t have a free license to go around discriminating against minority voters,” Perales said.

Schneider says attorney Bob Heath represented the City of Pasadena. He denies the city discriminated against Latino voters. As for whether Pasadena plans to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit, he says: “I think that’s certainly a possibility, and I’ll be visiting with the client about that.”

Rosenthal ordered Pasadena to revert to its original election system in time for the 2017 municipal election, Schneider says. The primary for that election is in March, and the ballots are due to be printed up in a matter of weeks.

U.S. District Judge Janis Jack is ordering the state of Texas to cooperate with child welfare experts appointed by the court, as part of changes to the state foster care system.

The judge says this isn’t a final order, but an interim charge to be conducted before the final one is issued.

One of the requirements is that the state has to work with the two experts, called “special masters,” to create policies for monthly in-person visits between caseworkers and children in permanent state care.