Harris County, Texas - Monday, July 19, 2021, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo today urged Commissioners Court to support a proposal to fund three visiting judges who will work to prioritize adjudication of the most serious criminal cases still pending in county Criminal District Courts. Currently, there are about 100,000 total criminal court cases pending in Harris County. This includes 40,000 cases that are well past national standards in how long it has taken for them to be addressed, including more than 20,000 cases that are more than a year old. This is an increase of 40% since 2017. “Alleviating our unacceptable and dangerous criminal court backlog is the most impactful thing we can do right now - today - to reduce and prevent crime in Harris County. Justice delayed is justice denied. Denied for victims of crime and denied for those who are accused of violent crime. I strongly urge members of Commissioners Court to support this emergency initiative because in order to break the vicious cycle of crime and incarceration and make a meaningful dent in our crime rate, we need to invest in what works, not what’s designed to score political points or splashy headlines. Building more prisons, using taxpayer dollars to support the mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders, and over policing of black and brown communities are failed criminal justice policies of the 1980’s. Instead, this initiative will join a host of other actions being taken that are setting a smarter course to address the root causes of crime, including the current backlog, and invest in smart on crime initiatives.”
"Most everyone agrees; the biggest hurdle to reducing crime is the backlog of cases in our CourtSystem," said Adrian Garcia, Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner. "That is why I have been having conversations with the Sheriff's Office, HPD, the District Attorney, and other relevant agencies, and we all agree, prioritizing an end to the backlog is crucial to making Harris County safe. Victims should not have to continue to wait to get justice and the accused deserve their day in court, as well. I want to thank Chief Finner for his thoughtful leadership on this issue and I join Judge Hidalgo in urging our fellow members of Commissioners Court to support this measure."
On Tuesday, July 20, Commissioners Court will consider the proposal requested by Judge Hidalgo to approve funding for three visiting District Court judges and necessary support staff—with the primary purpose to prioritize the most serious criminal cases in the Criminal District Courts, and significantly reduce the criminal case backlog. The request will include an additional $2.5 million to support staffing, space and additional support for the initiative. The proposal will build on previous actions already taken by Harris County. On June 29, Commissioners Court approved over $17 million dollars for additional law enforcement and associate judges to speed criminal court cases. Additionally, the court approved an initiative to expand jury operations. Previous actions Harris County has taken to address violent crime include supporting additional overtime funding for detectives in the HCSO’s Violent Crimes, Adult Special Crimes, and Child Abuse Units to work cases in the most violent crimes through targeted investigations that focus on repeat offenders and organized criminal activity in known hotspots, improved information sharing, and expedited investigations. The county also approved a resolution for the legislature to add an additional criminal district court in Harris County, which passed this session.