Statement from State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Thursday, May 17, 2001
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-8393

Final House Passage of Texas Fair Defense Act

"The Texas House has taken an historic stand for fairness. The Texas Fair Defense Act is a significant step toward creating a criminal justice system that is both tough and fair. This is a proud day for Texas.

"Over the past two and half years, the glare of the spotlight on our justice system has been harsh. After working on this issue, I am convinced that there are people in jail in this state when their lawyer should be. The Texas Fair Defense Act balances the scales of justice to ensure poor Texans are not sentenced to a poor defense.

"Today, our system potentially places our state and counties in jeopardy of lawsuits by inmates claiming violations of their constitutional rights. The Texas Fair Defense Act addresses this criticism by focusing on four critical issues: 1) timely appointment of counsel; 2) method of counsel appointment by the courts; 3) reporting of information about indigent representation services, and; 4) minimum standards for counsel. These reforms will help Texas take a significant step toward a fairer, more effective criminal justice system.

"The Texas Fair Defense Act is the result of two years of discussion and compromise by all sides that, I think, goes a long way toward comprehensive reform of our indigent defense system, and the broad coalition of members in both chambers and of both parties that have supported this legislation demonstrates the need for change.

"Representative Juan Hinojosa deserves tremendous praise for his hard work and stewardship of this issue. His leadership has moved Texas forward and will help create a criminal justice system we can all be proud of."