Texas Supreme Court Judge Calls for Legislative Bail Reform

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By Becky FogelFebruary 2, 2017 1:12 pm

If you’re in the market for statewide political addresses, it’s been a banner week.

Tuesday was Gov. Greg Abbott’s State of the State address.

“I’m so honored to join you today as we go to work today to build a broader patch of prosperity in the state,” he said from the podium at the front of the House of Representatives.

The day before that, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus held their first ever State of Latino Affairs address.

“The future of Texas is inextricably linked to the success or failure of the Latino Community,” said State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas).

And to wrap things up on Wednesday, there was the State of the Judiciary address. During that speech, Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht called for bail reform.

Houston Public Media’s Andrew Schneider reports from Austin:

Hecht said the current bail system discriminates against poorer defendants. Those who are arrested and cannot afford their bail are forced to remain in jail until their trial date, even if they pose no threat to the community and no flight risk.

“To add to the nonsense, Texas law limits judges’ power to detain high-risk defendants. High-risk defendants, a threat to society, are freed,” Hecht said. “Low-risk defendants sit in jail, a burden on taxpayers. It makes no sense.”

Schneider reports that the chief justice noted that courts in five counties now use risk assessment tools, which show the majority of people charged with nonviolent crimes can be released on their own recognizance without danger to the public.

“The [Texas] Judicial Council recommends that this be standard practice throughout the state,” Hecht said. “Liberty and common sense demand this reform.”

Harris County is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit over its bail practices. District Attorney Kim Ogg made bail reform one of her signature issues during her election campaign last year.

Abbott spent time Wednesday touring the U.S.-Mexico border with President Donald Trump’s Homeland Security Secretary.

Abbott and John Kelly discussed efforts to increase border security. But Abbott wanted to strike a balance.

“We want to achieve safety and security but we also want to promote economic development,” Abbott said. “As you know, Mexico is our largest trade partner. We need to ensure that we are able to continue that very effective trade.”

The visit comes as Trump is working to made good on his campaign promise to expand a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump has mentioned the idea of a 20 percent tax on imported goods from Mexico to pay for the structure – something that Texas Republicans aren’t especially fond of.

Beyonce is having twins. The Queen, herself, made the announcement on Instagram Wednesday.

In the portrait, the Texan is draped in a dreamy veil and surrounded by a veritable halo of fresh flowers. (You can see the whole photo shoot here.)

She wrote “We have been blessed two times over.”

Let the countdown to the twins’ Bey-day begin.