Commissioners Court Convenes Without Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo Amid Her Mental Health Care

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo will have Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis takeover her duties until she returns.
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo will have Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis takeover her duties until she returns. Screenshot
Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis called Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting to order with County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s chair noticeably vacant following Monday’s announcement she would be taking a step away from her role to receive mental health treatment.

Ellis opened up the meeting by first addressing Hidalgo’s absence and Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones’s need to tune in digitally as she was stuck in Washington, D.C., due to weather-related travel delays.

“I do want to say how proud I am personally of Judge Hidalgo for making the decision to go public with an illness that is treatable – just as cancer or a heart attack or any other illness would be – and I know we all have her in our prayers that she’ll get the help she needs,” Ellis said.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia also extended his support to Hidalgo.

“I, too, want to add my thoughts and prayers to the judge. I’m glad that she is seeking help. It’s always difficult for someone in the public eye, whether elected official, appointed official, or an entertainer," Garcia said, "It’s always difficult but shows results. She has to get back to a place where she can be effective and serve as well. So, I am proud of her.”

Ellis referred to Hidalgo’s decision to take a brief break due to checking into inpatient care to treat her clinical depression as a “teachable moment for all of us.”

Briones and Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey echoed Ellis’s and Garcia’s sentiments when Ellis asked if anyone else wanted to say anything.

“I pray she gets the treatment she needs; I respect her courage and her help destigmatizing mental illness, and I hope that others who are in need get help so that we can be as supportive as a community of all the mental health concerns – which we all know COVID-19 only exacerbated,” Briones said. “So, I respect her for her courage, and she is in my prayers, and I look forward to continuously advancing the work together here today and hope she’s back soon.”

Ramsey added, “We are all praying for a speedy recovery, getting her back to a good place and getting back to work,” he said.

Tuesday is the first time the Commissioners Court will convene without Hidalgo due to her temporary leave of absence. According to her announcement to the public, Ellis will take over the county judge’s duties while she is away, as he is the senior-most commissioner.

Hidalgo said she and her team expect her to return to her normal schedule in early September.

There are 381 items up for consideration on the court’s agenda, including a countywide burn ban that would affect the unincorporated parts of Harris County. Other agenda items include approval of a settlement related to a lawsuit against Volkswagen (the automobile manufacturer) and an order authorizing Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee to participate in litigation between Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency over a dispute concerning various state "Good Neighbor Plans" for the 2015 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.