Warrant Roundup Begins Saturday

FROM AUSTIN MUNICIPAL COURT:

Law enforcement agencies from more than 250 agencies across Texas will begin making arrests Saturday, March 6, as part of the Great Texas Warrant Roundup. This major, multi-jurisdictional push kicked off Feb. 19 with the mailing of thousands of notices warning people with outstanding warrants of the impending arrest effort. The last day to clear warrants is Friday, March 5, before the concentrated effort to make arrests begins.

For more information, including online payment instructions, see this Statesman article.

Also worthy of note is that Austin Municipal Court’s policy is to not arrest people with active warrants who go there to take care of business.

New government loophole for open records requests.

Criminal defense attorneys and other government watchdog types who use open records requests to obtain information suffered a recent setback. In City of Dallas v. Abbott, the Texas Supreme Court addressed the government’s deadline for complying with such requests and gave the government a new loophole.

In the past, the government had a strict 10-day deadline for complying with open records requests. If the request was vague or overly broad, the government could seek clarification but the clock stopped running only until the clarification was provided. Now, however, the government’s deadline will be extend by 10 days.

That may not seem like such a big deal but the concern is that government officials may use the loophole to improperlydelay the release of information in time-sensitive situations in order to avoid accountability. Such concerns seem well-founded in light of the government’s history in this arena, which is what led to the legislature to impose the strict deadline in the first place.

Lawyer Bill Christian, who has represented the Austin American-Statesman on open records matters, has the following suggestions for avoiding improper delays with open records requests:

• Be as specific as possible so there are no grounds for seeking clarification. Don’t ask for “all documents” or “all records” unless it’s for a narrow, well-defined category.

• Make specific, narrow and numbered requests so that it’s more difficult for the agency to claim that the requests are vague.

• If you know what you are asking for, identify that document specifically as one of the numbered list.

• When a government agency seeks clarification, reply as quickly as possible with a narrowing or clarifying explanation.

Police Notebook: Sgt. Nedith Torres (APD)

Officer:  Sgt. Nedith Torres.
Agency:  Austin Police Department.
Alleged Misconduct:  Sgt. Torres assaulted his wife then lied about it during the subsequent investigation.
Disciplinary Action:  Sgt. Torres was fired in August 2008. He appealed and the arbitrator reversed the firing, despitefinding that the allegations were true. APD filed a lawsuit last Friday to challenge the decision.
Other Information:  As a result of the incident, Sgt. Torres was originally arrested for Assault Family Violence, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000. He ultimately pled guilty to a reduced charge of Class C Assault, presumably as part of a plea bargain agreement.
Source:  This Statesman article.