Texas Judge Glenn Devlin lost his bid for re-election Tuesday. On Wednesday, as juvenile cases came before him, with defendants facing charges ranging from misdemeanors to violent crimes, Devlin released them, saying that he was responding to the voice of the voters. Though the defendants will return to court to face their charges in January, after Devlin’s opponent, Natalia Oakes, is sworn in, the District Attorney has decried the move, saying that it could endanger the public.
According to USA Today, Judge Devlin asked at least seven juvenile defendants brought before him on Wednesday, “‘If I release you, will you go out and murder anybody?” When the defendants said they would not, they were released, to return to court after the January swearing-in of the newly elected judge.
Public defender Steve Halpert quoted Devlin as saying, “This is obviously what the voters wanted,” and opined that Devlin, a Republican, intended to imply that Democratic judges are more lenient with accused criminals.
The ACLU of Houston is calling for an investigation by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, saying that mass release, without treating defendants as individuals, is not the goal, and alleging that he failed to ensure that defendants were released safely to their parents, and describing the release as a spiteful response to a political loss.
Judge Devlin’s mass release of children today, without any apparent concern for the children’s safety or for ensuring that they are released to their parents, proves his detachment from the needs of each child. Reducing mass incarceration and addressing racial disparities require judges to look at people as individuals.
We call on the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct to investigate Judge Devlin for violating the canons of judicial conduct. It is improper for a judge to make orders motivated by partisan interests or spite as a result of his political loss.
ABC 13 reporter Jeff Ehling shared Thursday morning that Judge Glenn Devlin was not in court for the day, and that court staff was unable to answer questions about when he might return.
Judge who let a dozen juvenile offenders leave court Wednesday is not on the bench this A.M. Court staff not certain when Judge Glenn Devlin will return to bench. pic.twitter.com/BILz1a7cO6
— Jeff Ehling (@JeffEhlingABC13) November 8, 2018
According to ABC, only one defendant Devlin saw on Wednesday was kept in custody. By contrast, his reputation names him as one of two judges who most contributed to doubling the number of juveniles remanded to custody in recent years.
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Steph Bazzle reports on social issues and religion for Hill Reporter. She focuses on stories that speak to everyone's right to practice what they believe in and receive the support of their communities and government officials. You can reach her at Steph@HillReporter.com