In response to my requests, I received two letters from Judge Jean Hughes, the presiding judge of County Criminal Court at Law No. 15 telling me that the material I requested was exempt from disclosure under Rule 12.5(f).
Texas Rules of Judicial Administration, Rule 12.5:
The following records are exempt from disclosure under this rule:
(f) Internal Deliberations on Court or Judicial Administration Matters. Any record relating to internal deliberations of a court or judicial agency, or among judicial officers or members of a judicial agency, on matters of court or judicial administration.Now Rule 12.2(d) defines a judicial record for purposes of this statute:
Judicial record means a record made or maintained by or for a court or judicial agency in its regular course of business but not pertaining to its adjudicative function, regardless of whether that function relates to a specific case. A record of any nature created, produced, or filed in connection with any matter that is or has been before a court is not a judicial record. A record is a document, paper, letter, map, book, tape, photograph, film, recording, or other material, regardless of electronic or physical form, characteristics, or means of transmission.The electronic and written communications were "made" by the court during its regular course of business. The e-mails were sent and received via the judges' county-provided e-mail accounts and did not relate to any specific case.
Black's Law Dictionary defines "deliberation" as:
The act of carefully considering issues and options before making a decision or taking some action.
Might a judge "deliberate" when asked to volunteer to "review" warrant applications on a "No Refusal Weekend?" Maybe. But, if the e-mail is addressed to the judge and he or she sends back a reply agreeing to volunteer have their been an internal deliberations? And with whom would the judge deliberate?
While a judge is a "judicial officer" per Rule 12.2(c), e-mails between the judge and the DA's Office are not records of internal deliberations nor are they communications between judicial officers or members of a judicial agency.
They may be embarrassing, they may shine a little light on the relationship between judges in Harris County and the Harris County District Attorney's Office and they may make the public a little skeptical about the independence of the county judiciary.
The one record that was released is an e-mail dated July 19, 2010 from Ms. Nancy Hennessy of the Harris County Sheriff's Office to Ms. Blanca Villagomez, the chief hearing officer in Harris County.
We are conducting a DWI/no refusal initiative this weekend on Saturday, july 24 from 8p-4a in the northwest part of the county. It will be a multi-agency initiative with approximately 80 units participating. I have confirmed a blood draw location at jersey village pd. I also asked if one of their municipal judges could be made available for blood warrants but at 125/hr, I was told no. I asked around and was told that you were the person I needed to speak to to see if the county could provide a judge at the JV location for blood warrants or if arrangements could be made to have 2 judges on duty at IPC so a judge would be available without getting caught up in dockets. Could you provide me any information or direction as to who I would need to contact.
Thanks in advance.
I'm not sure if Jersey Village said they wouldn't provide judges for $125 an hour or if Harris County decided they wouldn't pay $125 an hour for a judge to "review" warrant applications. Whichever it is, the fact that the Sheriff's Office is communicating directly with a judge who determines whether there is probable cause to arrest is disturbing.