Good Times, Bad Times

A federal lawsuit accuses the county of upping the pressure for guilty pleas

Kallinen argues that the policy change is costly to Harris County taxpayers. He says that information gained from the other side during the discovery phase of the lawsuit shows that keeping a defendant in jail costs the public $41 a day. With some perhaps aggressive math, he claims that tens of thousands of defendants have been affected since the change by being kept in jail longer than they should have been.

"I'm going to do discovery to get exact numbers on the number of people affected, but it's a large number," he says.

Kallinen filed the suit in December. This isn't the first time he has tangled with the county bureaucracy over what might seem to be an unpopular cause: Several years ago he successfully sued on behalf of what some would say are the criminal-law equivalent of ambulance-chasing lawyers.

Harris County had begun blocking out relevant information on arrest forms as a way of preventing lawyers from combing through the reports and contacting potential clients. Kallinen sued in federal court in 1996, and U.S. District Judge Ken Hoyt ordered the county to stop the practice.

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