Harris County Advocacy Groups Blast DA Kim Ogg’s Push for Additional Prosecutors

Letter calls on Harris County Commissioners Court to turn down request

Style Magazine Newswire | 12/9/2019, 11:21 a.m.

Ahead of the Harris County Commissioners Court’s first set of preliminary budget hearings today, a slew of advocacy groups in and around Houston slammed Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg for an expected funding request for additional prosecutors for her office and called on Commissioners to reject the request, the fifth such ask by DA Ogg’s office since the start of 2019.

“District Attorney Kim Ogg is coming to you yet again to drastically increase the size of her office,” wrote the groups in a letter to the commission. “And she is doing it once again using troublingly flawed numbers and without any clear explanation of why she needs these additional prosecutors. We write today to ask you to stand up for public safety, the strength of our communities, and wise use of taxpayer dollars.”

The letter, delivered to the Harris County Commissioners Court over the weekend, was signed by 10 groups: Texas Organizing Project, Grassroots Leadership, the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Workers Defense Project, the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Restoring Justice, Texas Appleseed, Texas Advocates for Justice, and SEIU Texas.

In the letter, the groups take DA Ogg to task for failing to take meaningful action to reduce caseloads, pointing to the explosion of cases her office has filed that courts have dismissed due to a lack of probable cause - a stunning 3,200 cases, or a 70% increase over 2015.

“There is no indication she has taken sufficient steps to reform practices by drawing fewer people into the system in the first place,” say the groups in the letter. “We are extremely troubled that she would waste taxpayer money filing this many bad cases and then come to you asking for more money because her caseloads are too high.”

The letter also references DA Ogg’s reliance on faulty data to make the case for expanding her office. In October, more than two dozen legal scholars raised concerns with a Texas Southern University study DA Ogg had leaned on to justify her case for more prosecutors. A Houston Chronicle story on their critiques revealed that Ogg’s office had communicated with the researcher behind the study, raising questions about the study’s independence.

Finally, the groups point to the harmful ramifications of adding more prosecutors, particularly as Harris County is moving to roll back incarceration with a newly-approved bail settlement that will reduce the use of cash bail for misdemeanor offenses. While DA Ogg has claimed that more prosecutors would allow her office to clear cases, research has shown that adding prosecutors increases the rate of incarceration.

“Harris County is on the verge of real progress. D.A. Ogg has proven too many times that she cannot be trusted to use taxpayer funds responsibly and in our county’s best interests,” conclude the groups. “Please invest our hard-earned money where it can actually make a difference.”

The full text of the letter can be found below and attached:

Dear Commissioners:

We write today out of a great concern for Harris County. District Attorney Kim Ogg is coming to you yet again to drastically increase the size of her office. Specifically, she is requesting 58 new prosecutors at the cost of $12 million. And she is doing it once again using troublingly flawed numbers and without any clear explanation of why she needs these additional prosecutors. We write today to ask you to stand up for public safety, the strength of our communities, and wise use of taxpayer dollars.