Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Speaking out

According to Houston City Attorney David Feldman, the impetus behind the new HPD policy forbidding officers to speak to criminal defense attorneys without the prosecutor's permission was an overtime study that focused on the municipal courts. Mr. Feldman stated this afternoon that when the city began reviewing overtime records the review turned up some alleged improprieties in the municipal courts between officers and defense attorneys. He defended the new policy claiming it was a matter of "logistics." He said that what was happening was not in the best interests of the citizens of Houston.

I think what Mr. Feldman meant was when officers decide they can't remember the details of a traffic stop it puts a monkey wrench in the ATM machine known as the City of Houston Municipal Courthouse.

Robert Fickman, Mark Bennett and Nicole DeBorde (current president of HCCLA) spoke out this afternoon at the weekly city council meeting and were joined by about 50 of their colleagues. (Click here to see the video of today's meeting.)

Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, a criminal defense attorney, understood the larger issues involved and told Mr. Feldman that "the Constitution trumps overtime."

So there you have it. A policy that impedes due process and hampers a defense attorney's ability to defend his client with jail or prison time hanging over his head, was drawn up because some officers were too chummy with defense attorneys over at the Municipal Courthouse. And the city attorney had no problem with it.

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