ODonnell et al. v. Harris County et al. is a class action lawsuit that was filed in federal court in 2016 claiming that the bail practices for misdemeanor arrestees in Harris County were unconstitutional. The parties reached a settlement that they believe was fair to both sides on November 21, 2019. The consent decree represents the first federal court-supervised remedy governing bail. Harris County is collaboratively working to implement all aspects of the consent decree.

Read the Consent Decree here.

ODonnell Public Meeting Videos

Rule 9

The consent decree modifies of the prior secured bail schedule and requires that Harris County follow a new local rule that ends the practice of jailing people because they are too poor to pay predetermined amounts of money. The rule makes sure that people charged with most offenses will be released promptly after arrest on a personal bond without having to see a judge. For those people falling into several categories of offenses, the rule ensures that they will have a prompt individualized bail hearing that meets strict constitutional standards. The rule ensures that no class member can be detained prior to trial unless the government makes a determination that such detention is necessary because no alternative conditions are sufficient to serve its interests in public safety or to prevent flight from prosecution. The rule ensures that such a determination can only be made after an adversarial hearing, notice, representation by counsel, the ability to present and confront evidence, and findings on the record by clear and convincing evidence. To read the rest of the provisions of the rule, please see Local Rule 9 links on the left.

Monitor Team

On March 3, 2020, Professor Brandon L. Garrett at Duke University School of Law was appointed as Monitor, and Professor Sandra Guerra Thompson, at the University of Houston Law Center, will serve as Deputy Monitor. The Monitor Team also includes researchers from the Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI) at Texas A&M University, as well as the Wilson Center for Science and Justice (WCSJ) at Duke University.

The Monitor will conduct reviews every six (6) months for the first three years, and annually for each year thereafter. The independent Monitor is in place to determine whether the County, CCL Judges, and Sheriff have substantially complied with the requirements of this Consent Decree.