The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily granted a last-minute appeal from Harris County on Friday to halt an injunction by Chief U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal that would have required the county to begin releasing inmates on Monday who were jailed on misdemeanor charges without cash bail.
The county filed the request with the appeals court on Friday morning. The stay granted by the appeals court Friday afternoon will delay the judge’s order pending the appeal.
“We are pleased the Fifth Circuit has chosen to stay the implementation of Judge Rosenthal’s order,” First Assistant County Attorney Robert Soard said. “This will allow us to continue to work toward a resolution that increases the number of misdemeanor detainees who are released from jail while giving due regard for the safety of the victims of crime and the community as required by Texas law.”
The judge’s injunction came as the result of a lawsuit filed in September 2016 alleging the county unfairly jails those who cannot afford to pay cash bail. The suit alleges that a “wealth-based pretrial detention system” violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
The injunction originally gave the county a May 15 deadline to begin releasing inmates being held on misdemeanor charges who could not post cash bail.
The Harris County criminal court system oversees the third largest jurisdiction in the United States and processes over 50,000 misdemeanor defendants per year, according to Harris County court filings.