After losing election, Houston juvenile court judge releases defendants en masse

On Tuesday, Harris County Family Judge Glenn Devlin lost his re-election bid to Democrat Natalia Oakes. On Wednesday, he showed up for work in the 313th District Court and began releasing virtually all of the juvenile defenders who had detention hearings before him, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The Chronicle reports that Devlin simply asked the defendants whether they planned to kill anyone, then released nearly all of them from detention. Under state law, juveniles who are locked up while their cases are pending are required to have a hearing every 10 business days so a judge can decide whether they should stay in detention. It’s not clear how many defendants Devlin released Wednesday, but the Chronicle reports that the judge reset all of their cases for Jan. 4 — the day Oakes takes the gavel in the 313th.

Last week, the Tribune wrote about Devlin and his two fellow family judges who preside over virtually all juvenile cases in Harris County. The investigation found that the judges have assigned an extraordinary number of juvenile cases to a small handful of private lawyers — often the same lawyers who give the judges big campaign contributions. Some of those attorneys took on 300-plus court appointments in a year and earned more than a half million dollars from juvenile and family cases. Meanwhile, the county’s taxpayer-funded public defender’s office says it hasn’t received enough juvenile cases from those same judges to keep its lawyers busy.

All three family judges lost their races Tuesday during a Democratic sweep of judicial offices in Harris County.