Texas judge’s successfully reverse injunction in federal court regarding system for setting bail for indigent misdemeanors

ODonnell v. Harris County, et al.,  No. 18-20466 (5th  Cir. Aug. 14, 2018).

Plaintiffs brought a class action against Harris County and numerous officials, including judges and hearing officers under §1983 asserting the system for setting bail for indigent misdemeanor arrests violates their due process and equal protection rights. They obtained a preliminary injunction preventing the use of the system, which the U.S. 5th Circuit reversed in part and remanded.   On remand, the injunction was adjusted. Now the County cannot hold indigent arrestees for the 48 hours preceding their bail hearing if the same individual would have been released had he been able to post bond. The County must release, on unsecured personal bond, all misdemeanor arrestees who have not had a hearing and individual assessment within 48 hours. Fourteen Judges filed an emergency motion with U.S. 5th Circuit, requesting a stay of only four sections of the injunction dealing with these provisions.

The court analyzed the mandate rule. “[T]he mandate rule compels compliance on remand with the dictates of a superior court and forecloses relitigation of issues expressly or impliedly decided by the appellate court.” Remand is not the time to bring new issues that could have been raised initially. Despite the district court’s diligent and well-intentioned efforts Section 7 of the injunction easily violates the mandate, which explicitly found that individualized hearings would remedy the identified procedural violations. The requirement that such a hearing be held within 48 hours is applied to those who cannot afford the pre-scheduled bond. Individualized hearings fix that problem, so immediate release is more relief than required and thus violates the mandate rule. Further, the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses do not require the release dictated by Section 7. Sections 8, 9, and 16 are likewise not constitutionally required. The Judges have made an adequate showing to satisfy the remaining elements. They and the public are harmed by enjoining the County’s bail system. And given their likelihood of success on the merits, any harm to Plaintiffs, standing alone, does not outweigh the other factors.

If you would like to read this opinion, click here. Panel consists of Justice Smith, Justice Graves and Justice Duncan. Dissenting opinion by Justice Graves.