SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order that heavily limited jail releases was ruled “wholly unconstitutional” by 379th District Court Judge Ron Rangel on Monday.
GA-13, which Abbott issued at the start of the pandemic on March 29, 2020, stopped the release of criminal defendants accused or convicted in the past of a violent crime on a no-cost, personal recognizance bond as they wait for their trial date. Abbott’s order also prohibited inmates serving misdemeanor sentences from being released early for good behavior.
Last July, Salazar, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, District Attorney Joe Gonzales and Rangel sent a letter to the governor asking him to reverse the executive order that limits judges’ abilities to release inmates on personal bonds.
Rangel signed that letter in his capacity as the Administrative Judge for Bexar County, which means he sets policies and makes decisions that impact the county court system’s operations. The case was assigned to his court by chance.
Despite the governor reopening bars, restaurants, schools and other businesses in Texas, the executive order provision on jail releases has not yet been lifted.
On June 18, 2021, the Bexar County Public Defender’s Office, along with the Texas Fair Defense Project, filed a lawsuit on behalf of Janie Villeda who was overdue for release due to GA-13. During that hearing, Rangel issued a $1 bond for Villeda and others who were in the same situation.
On Monday, Rangel ruled that the Governor’s order violated the Texas Constitution. Abbott is expected to appeal.
Meanwhile, Abbott and the Texas Attorney General are dealing with another, higher-profile court battle over Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates in schools.
After losing a local district court case in Bexar County last week, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court sided with Abbott on Sunday, temporarily blocking mask mandates implemented by San Antonio and other large Texas cities. That case remains in courts.
Read the ruling below: