HOUSTON (CN) – Made a lame duck by a Democratic takeover of Houston’s judiciary, a Republican juvenile court judge raised public safety concerns Wednesday when he released several youths from jail and reset their hearings for his replacement’s first week on the bench in January.
Harris County Juvenile Court Judge Glenn Devlin freed at least seven teenagers, including four facing aggravated robbery charges, after snidely asking them if they planned to kill anybody, local media reported.
He is one of 69 GOP judges in Houston, Harris County’s seat, who fell to Democrats in Tuesday’s elections.
Devlin’s move drew criticism from Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
“We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age. This could endanger the public,” Ogg told the Houston Chronicle.
The ACLU of Texas called on the state’s judicial ethics commission to investigate Devlin.
“It is improper for a judge to make orders motivated by partisan interests or spite as a result of his political loss,” the group’s political strategy director Sharon Watkins Jones said in a statement.
Nearly a quarter of all Texas minors sent to the state’s juvenile prisons last year came from Harris County, thanks to Devlin and his fellow Harris County Juvenile Court Judge John Phillips, also a lame duck Republican.
Devlin and Phillips handed down 20 percent of all juvenile prison sentences in Texas in 2017, and of all the Harris County teens sent to state prisons last year, 96 percent were minorities, according to the Chronicle.
Harris County shipped 199 youths to state juvenile prisons in fiscal year 2018, up from 101 in fiscal year 2014, the Chronicle reported.
Devlin’s court coordinator said he was out of the office Thursday morning and unavailable to comment.
Harris County court clerks told Courthouse News it’s common for outgoing judges to not take up complicated cases and punt them to their successors, which ensures the same judge who heard the case will handle any remanded appeals.