The following statement is from Laquita Garcia, Statewide Right2Justice Policy Coordinator of the Texas Organizing Project (TOP), in response to Gov. Greg Abbott signing into law House Bill 17 today, which strips away prosecutorial discretion from Texas district attorneys:
“HB 17 is a solution in search of a problem motivated by MAGA extremism. It’s vile legislation at its core, threatening the removal of democratically-elected officials who dare to reform our justice system or stand up for voting rights and reproductive freedom in our state.
“Duly elected prosecuting attorneys should not have to fear being targeted for choosing which cases they will prioritize, simply because it does not align with our state elected officials’ political agendas. Voters elect district and county attorneys to use their discretion under state law. This law fits right in with Texas Republicans’ latest fixation on attacking local control, which in turn is our state government intruding on our fundamental rights.
“We as Texans know our worth, and no matter who we are or where we live, we deserve elected leaders who look out for our personal freedoms and don’t try to dictate how communities should govern themselves.”
Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton added:
“HB 17 will likely be challenged in court as a violation of free speech, separation of powers, and long-standing legal precedent that established the foundation for prosecutorial discretion.
“Prosecutorial discretion is necessary for the proper administration of justice. Texas law expressly provides, “It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict, but to see that justice is done.”
“Further, HB 17 may have an unintended consequence. Some prosecutors may charge defendants with trivial offenses, offenses that they would not otherwise feel justified in pursuing, simply to avoid being the subject of a removal petition. Restricting prosecutorial discretion could result in greater cost to taxpayers due to increased prosecution of petty offenses without any increase in public safety. The ultimate goal of all prosecutors is to increase public safety and reduce harm in our communities. This is achieved by enforcing the law while utilizing best practices and evidence-based prosecution.”
About Texas Organizing Project (TOP)
TOP organizes Black and Latino communities in Dallas, Harris, Bexar, and Fort Bend counties with the goal of transforming Texas into a state where working people of color have the power and representation they deserve. For more information, visit organizetexas.org.
This statement was sent out June 7, 2023.