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Lander Memo and Presentation in Response to AC Briefing

Lander Memo and Presentation in Response to AC Briefing

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Published by: The Dallas Morning News on Aug 01, 2012
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08/01/2012

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Memorandum
CITYOFDALLAS
DATE:
July27,2012
TO;
HonorableAngelaHuntandHonorableDeliaJassoCo-Chairs,AdHocLegislativeCommitteeonJudicialAppointments
SUBJECT
:
JudiciaryResponsetoCityManager'sPresentationontheCourtsAttachedPowerPointPresentationPursuanttoyourrequest,inrespondingtothepresentationoftheDallasCityManagerconcerningtheoperationoftheDallasMunicipalCourtthemattersIwantedtobringtoyourattentionaresimple,yetcritical.IthankyoufortheopportunitytorespondtotheCityManager'spresentationandpresenttheJudiciaryperspective.ItisimperativethattheCityCouncil,astheappointingauthorityfortheMunicipalJudges,fullyunderstandjustwhattheMunicipalJudgesdo,and,moreimportant,whatweasJudgesareprohibitedfromdoing.Onbehalf
of
theDallasMunicipalJudges,IhavepreparedandnowsubmittoyouthismemoandtheattachedPowerPointpresentation,intheefforttoensurethatallCityCouncilMembersarefullyinformedastotheroleoftheMunicipalJUdgesbeforetheyassertrequirementsoftheMunicipalJudgesthattheJudgesmaynot,bylaw,beabletofulfill.Asstatedherein,theJudiciaryexiststoensurethatjusticeisdone,nottoensurethatrevenueisgenerated.Becauseofthelegalandethicalrestrictionsontheactions
of
Judges,thereismuchthattheJudgescannotdo.Judgescannot,forexample,predeterminewhatthefineswillbeonacasewithoutconsiderationofthecircumstancesofthecase.Judgesalsocannotdismissacasewithouttherecommendation
of
theProsecution,unlessthedismissalisforcompliance.JUdgesalsocannotandshouldnotengageinanyeffortrelatedtocollectionsofthefinesandcosts,asthatistheprovince
of
CourtandDetentionServices.ThejurisdictionoftheMunicipalCourtisextensive.FromQualityofLifecriminalCityOrdinances,toClassCmisdemeanorscases,totrafficcases,tojuvenilecases,totheciviljurisdictionoftheMunicipalCourts,theJudgesarecalledupontoruleoneveryimaginablematter,fromhighweedsandbulkytrashtoassaultsandfamilyviolence.TheJudgesarealsocalledupontousetheirbest
judqrnent
andruleonthecasesonacasebycasebasis.Nevertheless,theCityManagerhasinferredthattheCityCouncilshouldbaseitsappointmentofCityofDallasMunicipalJUdgesonwhetherthoseJudgeswill,ifappointed,committoassessingmaximumfinesandmaximumdeferredfeesinalltrafficcases,juvenilecases,andotherClassCmisdemeanorcases,regardless.AnyattempttoholdJudgestothisstandardfliesinthefaceofthelawthatweasJudgesareboundtouphold.
1
 
Section720.002(a)(2)oftheTexasTransportationCodeprohibitstheevaluation,promotion,compensation,ordisciplineofajudgeofamunicipalcourtaccordingtotheamountofmoneythejudqecollectsfrompersonsconvictedofatrafficoffense.UnderSection720.002(b)(2),eventhemeresuggestionthatajudge'sappointmentissomehowtiedtothemoneythatjudgebringsintotheCityrunsafoulofthelaw,andmustbeavoided.Further,theJudgesaregovernedbycaselaw,andtheleadingcaseisJeffersonv.State,whicharoseoutoftheDallasFelonyCourt.Inthatcase,theJudgestatedonsentencingthathewouldgivetheDefendantthemaximumpenaltyiftheDefendantviolatedthetermsofhisprobation,regardlessofthecircumstancesgivingrisetotheviolation.TheDefendantviolatedtheprobation,andtheJudgedidwhathesaidhewoulddo,withoutconsiderationofthecircumstancesofthecaseitself.TheCourtofAppealssaidclearlythatthisactiononthepartoftheJudgewasaviolationoftheDueProcessClauseoftheConstitution,andthataJudge
must
considerthefullrangeofpunishmentin
eachandevery
case,and
cannot
assessthemaximumfinewithoutregardtothecircumstancesofthecase.UndertheJudicialCanonsofEthics,a
JUdge
mustcomplywiththelaw,andmustactinamannerthatpromotespublicconfidenceintheintegrityandimpartialityoftheJudiciary.HavingaJudgecommittotheassessmentofmaximumfinesandpenaltiesdoesneither.Thequestionis,doesitpromotepublicconfidenceintheJudiciaryfortheCityCounciltorequirethattheJudgesassessthemaximumpenaltyinallcasesandnotconsidermattersonacasebycasebasis?Additionally,Section30.00006(h)oftheTexasGovernmentCodeprohibitsamunicipalityfromdirectlyorindirectlybasingajudge'ssalaryonfines,feesorcostscollectedbythecourt.Interestingly,theDallasMunicipalJudgesaretheonlyDallasCityCouncilappointeeswhohavenotbeenrecommendedforaraisethisfiscalyear.Infact,DallasMunicipalJudgeshavenotreceivedapayincreasein8years,andactuallyreceivedapaycut2yearsago.TobeonparitywithotherCityCouncilappointees,pleaseconsiderthismyplea,onbehalfoftheCityofDallasMunicipalJudges,thattheJudgesyouappointreceiveaminimum10percentpayraisefromthecurrentsalary,especiallyconsideringtheiraccretionofdutiesandtheherculeaneffortstheyhaveexpendedwithinthelastyearstomaketheCourtsoperatemoreefficiently.WithrespecttotheTimeServedissue,theCityManagerhasstatedthattheybelievethattheDallasMunicipalCourtJudgesaregivingincarceratedDefendantstoomuchcreditforthetimetheyhaveservedinjail,bygivingthemcreditformorethan$50.00perday.WhileitislegalforaDefendanttobejailedforthefailuretopayafineandcosts,underArticle45.048(a)(1)oftheTexasCodeofCriminalProcedureanIndigencyhearingwouldberequiredatthejailforeveryDefendantwhostatedthattheycouldnotpaythefineandcosts,necessitatingaProsecutortobepresentatthejailtwiceaday,7daysaweek,andcreatingasubstantialdelayinhandlingthejaildocket,withthecostsassociatedwiththatdelay(suchasovertimeforofficers,interpreters,Clerks,etc.).Further,underArticle45.048(a)(2)oftheTexasCodeofCriminalProcedure,theamountof$50.00perdayfortimeservedisthe
floor
forcreditfortimeserved,notthe
ceiling
.
2
 
GivingaDefendantcreditforthetimeservedinjailisarequirementofthelaw.Article42.03,Section2(a)oftheTexasCodeofCriminalProcedurestatesthattheCourt"shall"givecreditfortimeserved.Thisisnotpermissive,itismandatory.Thequestionis,howmuchcredit?Thisstatuteinfersthatthecreditshouldbefromthetimeofarresttothetimeofsentencing.Caselawhasdifferedonthepoint.Therealityofthesituation,however,isthatgivingaDefendantpartialcreditfortimeservedandthenreleasingtheDefendantwhileheorshestillowesmoneytotheCity,andexpectingtheDefendanttoactuallysomehowpaythatmoneyinthefuture,wouldonlyresultinrecidivism,withallassociatedcosts(reissuanceofawarrant,re-arrest,re-incarceration,etc.).DefendantsincarceratedforClassCmisdemeanorsandtrafficoffensesareusuallyincarceratedforareason-theyhavenomoneytopaythefines,warrantfees,collectioncosts,courtcosts,andothercostsinvolvedinthecase.Iftheyhavenomoneynow,whatgoodwouldcomefromorderingthattheypaymoneylater?JudgesinDallasandthroughouttheStateofTexasroutinelygiveDefendantinjailmorethan$50.00perdaycreditfortimeserved,andJudgesthroughouttheStaterunClassCandtrafficAliascasesconcurrently,asthelawprovides.Doingless,quitefrankly,makesthejailtheequivalentofdebtor'sprison,whereapersonwithoutfundsspendstimeinjailbecausetheyowetheCitymoney.WithrespecttoDeferredDisposition,thelawprovidesthattheJudgemayorderdeferreddisposition,andmayassessafeeofa
minimum
oftheCourtcostsonly,anda
maximum
ofthefineplusCourtcosts,attheJudge'sdiscretion.Thelawprovidesthatthecasesaretobedecidedindividually,onacasebycasebasis,andnotasablanketdetermination,andthisisexactlywhattheCityofDallasMunicipalJudgesdo.Theyfollowthelaw.TheCityManagerhasalsoinferredthatthejudiciaryissomehowresponsibleforthelargenumberofcasesdismissedbytheDallasMunicipalCourt.TherealityisthatdismissalsareneitherthefaultnortheresponsibilityoftheJudges.CasesaredismissedbecausetheProsecutionasksthatthecasesbedismissed.Exceptinverylimitedcircumstances,suchascompliancedismissals,theJudgescannotdismissacasewithouttherecommendationoftheProsecution.Prosecutorsaskfordismissalofcasesforamyriadofreasons,suchasthedeathoftheDefendant,theretirementorunavailabilityoftheissuingofficer,thefailureoftheofficertorememberthecase,thefailureoftheofficertoshowupforCourt,becauseofapleainbar(wherethedefendantpleadstoothercasesinreturnforadismissal),becauseoftheinabilityoftheProsecutiontoprovethecase,amongotherreasons.WhentheProsecutionrecommendsdismissal,sincetheJudgescannotforcetheProsecutiontoprosecuteacaseiftheProsecutionisnotreadytodoso,thecasesaredismissed.Asforcollections,itistheresponsibilityoftheCourtServicestoeffectcollections
of
finesandcostsassessedbytheCourt,anditistheresponsibilityoftheMarshal,actingundertheauthorityofCourtServices,totimelyexecutethehundredsofwarrantssigneddailybytheJudges.Ifthecollectionsarenotaccomplished,theresponsibilitylieswithCourtServices.Ifthewarrantsarenottimelyexecuted,theresponsibilitylieswiththeCityMarshal.TheJudgesareresponsibleforneitheroperation,andhavenoauthorityovereitherDepartment.
3

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