The Texas Senate sent a bill to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk Sunday evening that would rein in “rogue” local prosecutors for declining to go after certain crimes due to political reasons, according to The Texas Tribune.
HB 17 gives courts the ability to remove a district attorney (DA) for failing to “prosecute a class or type of criminal offense under state law or instructing law enforcement to refuse to arrest individuals suspected of committing a class or type of offense under state law,” according to the bill’s text. The bill was introduced by Republican state Sen. Joan Huffman earlier this year and passed both legislative houses before being given final approval by the Senate Sunday, with a 20 to 11 vote. (RELATED: Texas Lawmakers Pass Bill Banning Kids From Attending ‘Sexually Oriented’ Drag Shows)
Currently, the state Legislature cannot remove prosecutors through impeachment or recall elections, but the new bill will allow a complaint to be heard by a jury, and if proven guilty, a judge may order the attorney’s removal, according to the bill’s text. If a DA is removed, the sitting governor can appoint a replacement until the next election cycle.
— Texas Senate GOP (@TexasSenateGOP) May 19, 2023
Huffman’s bill would likely target prosecutors who decline to go after election fraud or abortion-related offenses, according to The Texas Tribune. After the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a group of 88 prosecutors, five from Texas, signed a statement saying they would refuse to prosecute any cases that criminalize abortion.
Abortion, under Texas law, is a felony, with limited exceptions for saving the life of the mother, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Critics of the bill argued that the new bill would take away prosecutors’ ability to maintain discretion over their caseload, but Huffman said that certain prosecutors have let political reasons decide for them, according to The Texas Tribune.
Huffman pointed to Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot, who announced in 2019 that he would no longer be prosecuting thefts under $750 but later rescinded the directive after winning reelection, as a prime example of how politics could impede due process, according to The Texas Tribune. Creuzot was also among the 88 prosecutors who signed the statement following the Dobbs decision.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who also recently announced his 2024 presidential run, made similar moves last year by suspending sitting Tampa prosecutor Andrew Warren in August after he pledged not to prosecute individuals who obtain an abortion illegally or doctors for performing gender transition medical procedures.
Abbott and Huffman did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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