Thursday, April 9, 2020

TDCAA will be closed tomorrow, so we’re sending this week’s coronavirus update a day early, along with our hopes that those of you celebrating Passover or Easter this week find comfort and peace in their promises.

More TDCAA coronavirus resources

We are posting all our COVID-19 information—including periodic updates like this one—at Please check it often, as we will update it more frequently than we issue these updates. Recent additions include:

  • updated sample motions and orders from Hays County granting video conference pleas (revised felony version, new misdemeanor sample); and
  • new felony and juvenile video plea procedures from Collin County

All of these documents can be found on our updated Video Conference Hearing Resources web page.


For those of you hoping for more clarity from the governor on the scope of EO-14 (the statewide stay-at-home-order-that-isn’t-a-true-stay-at-home-order we discussed last week) … well, the Easter Bunny should be hopping around this weekend, you’ll probably have more luck asking him (her?) than getting further guidance from Austin. (We kid, of course—everyone knows the Tooth Fairy is the real expert when it comes to pandemics.)

Seriously, though, the focus of this week’s pandemic updates from our state government have been on health care, as they probably should be. The issue of how—or whether—to enforce state and local emergency orders remains a local one for now. Good luck with that.

Who wants to play doctor?

Litigation continues over EO-9 (ban on non-essential medical procedures) as it relates to abortions. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Based on EO-9, the attorney general moved to limit abortions; advocates on the other side filed suit before a friendly federal district court judge and got abortion-related applications of the new order stayed; the State then appealed to a friendly federal appellate court panel and got the stay stayed; and now things go back to the district court for further proceedings. (Lather. Rinse. Repeat.)

This is relevant to your office duties because a violation of EO-9 is a hybrid Class B misdemeanor under the state’s emergency management plan, and—as is always the case with this topic—advocates on both sides of the issue are *very* interested in that new offense either being strictly enforced or completely ignored, depending on their strongly-held viewpoints. Meanwhile, the federal litigation will continue, and you can expect further hearings, stays, appeals, reversals, and reviews over the next several weeks/months, if the recent history of this issue is any guide. We will continue to monitor the litigation and keep you updated as warranted.

Personal bond battles continue

Federal litigation also continues in Harris County over the scope of EO-13 (pretrial detentions) and how it meshes with existing federal court orders in that county. Meanwhile, a new state district court filing in Travis County (PDF copy available here) initiated by some Harris County judges, the ACLU, and several criminal defense lawyer groups argues that the governor has overstepped his constitutional bounds in limiting which offenders can be released on personal bonds. From what we can tell, most of your counties seem untroubled by EO-13 due to your existing practices and the availability of other release options under that order for suitable detainees, but we will monitor this litigation anyway, not least of all because it is trying to be the first lawsuit in more than a century to successfully invoke Article I, Section 28 of the state constitution. (Fellow law nerds, you may officially get excited—something new!) And if successful on that basis, it will be interesting to see whether such a ruling is used to invalidate other executive orders coming out of Austin. But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here, and we have no dog in the fight, so we’ll just pop our popcorn, watch the fun, and let you know how the movie ends. (Spoiler alert: It’s probably not a happy ending for anyone.)

Award nominations

Is someone in your office going above and beyond the call of duty during this pandemic? Or did one of your employees do something marvelous that has been completely forgotten in today’s all-coronavirus-all-the-time news cycle? If so, we have some association awards for which you might consider nominating them.

Suzanne McDaniel Award
The person selected for this award should exemplify the qualities that were so evident in Suzanne (our first Victim Services Director): advocacy, empathy, and a constant recognition of the rights of crime victims. The criteria for nomination are:

  • The person must be employed by a county attorney, district attorney, or criminal district attorney’s office;
  • At least a portion of the person’s job duties must involve working directly with victims; and
  • The person must have demonstrated impeccable service to TDCAA, victim services, and the profession of prosecution.

Oscar Sherrell Awards
The Oscar Sherrell Awards for service to the association is awarded by each section of TDCAA in  recognition of enthusiastic members who excel in TDCAA work, whether it be through a specific activity that has benefited or improved TDCAA or a body of work that has improved TDCAA’s service to the profession of prosecution. The Investigator and Key Personnel boards each select their annual Oscar Sherrell Award winners and present the awards at their individual section conferences.

To nominate someone for any of these awards, please email Jalayne Robinson with the nominee’s name, office of employment, phone number, and a description no longer than 100 words of why you believe the person deserves this award. The nomination must be received by Friday, April 24, 2020. Should you choose to nominate someone, please keep in mind that the person does not have to work in your office or even in your TDCAA region if they meet the criteria above. Anyone in a prosecutor’s office may make a nomination.

Quotes of the Week

“I know that we are unfortunately in a recession. I just don’t know how deep or how wide it’s gonna be.”
            —Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar (R-Katy), in an interview earlier this week.

“There’s not really going to be a make-up for this. By and large, this is just a lot of lost revenue.”
            —Bill Gilmer, head of UH’s Institute for Regional Forecasting, on the impending loss of sales tax revenue in Houston (and other localities) due to pandemic shut-downs.

“This building is where justice is to be done. That makes it a sacred place. Justice is the highest expression of the human spirit. It calls us to be better than we are. We may all hope that we honor that call.”
            —Inscription on a plaque under the picture of former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (1942–2020) which hangs in the county building named for him and which now houses his former office. Ronnie* passed away earlier this week after a long illness.
[*No, we’re not being disrespectful—everyone knows he never liked being called “Mr. Earle”! RIP, Ronnie.]

Until our next update, keep check our website and Twitter feed for the latest COVID-19 news.