Reforming Dallas' Broken Bail System Could Hit Us Where It Hurts — in the Wallet

Want one good reason Dallas County may not want to dig its heels in too deeply in a legal battle over bail reform? How about 5 million.In less than two years, that -- more than $5 million and counting -- is how much Harris County has spent fending off the federal lawsuit brought by the Civil Rights Corps, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit that teamed up with the Texas Fair Defense Project and a Houston law firm to overhaul the county's cash bail system.That doesn't include the cost of staff attorneys and other Harris County officials caught up in the litigation. That's just the price for the three outside law firms hired to handle a complex case that's still working its way through the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and, so far, isn't going the county's way."I think we have approximately eight different individual assistant attorneys involved," said Robert Soard, first assistant at the Office of Harris County Attorney. "It's a massive litigation." County officials told me this week that they've tried to settle the case since Day 1 but haven't been able to reach an agreement in large part because the parties haven't been able to balance concerns over public safety while making it easier for defendants to be set free."If their goal," Soard said, is to wipe out cash bails even in cases involving violence "and no matter how many times a defendant comes to court -- 10, 15 or 20 times -- and they have to be let out of jail after 24 hours no matter do you settle a case like that and still preserve public safety?" But civil rights and civil libertarians involved in both cases, in Dallas and Harris counties, say their goal is simple -- to make sure everyone is afforded due process and equal protection of the law.  Continue reading...

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