Munger Tolles Files Amicus Brief Challenging Constitutionality of Houston Bail System

Munger, Tolles & Olson filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, on behalf of U.S. law enforcement and corrections officials, challenging the constitutionality of Harris County, Texas’s policy of detaining indigent criminal defendants who are unable to pay bail.  

The brief was filed on Aug. 9, 2017, in support of Maranda Lynn O’Donnell, a woman who was jailed for three days after being arrested for driving with an invalid license and not being able to pay $2,500 in bail, as well as several other plaintiffs. The brief argues that pre-trial detention increases the crime rate in communities, undermines community stability, and wastes public funds. The amici argue that ending pre-trial detention will improve public confidence in the entire criminal justice system.

“The unnecessary pre-trial detention of indigent defendants, of the sort practiced in Harris County, does not further any substantial or compelling law enforcement interest,” the brief stated.

The Munger Tolles attorneys who filed the brief are Bradley S. Phillips and Kenneth M. Trujillo-Jamison. Lisa Foster, a former California Superior Court judge and former head of the Access to Justice Office in the U.S. Department of Justice, co-wrote the brief.