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House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence to Hold Hearing in El Paso

On Thursday, April 26th, Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hold a public hearing in the council chambers of El Paso City Hall (located at 300 N. Campbell on the second floor) beginning at 10:00 a.m.

The committee, which is composed of state representatives from across Texas, will be taking up two interim charges—essentially, areas of study assigned by House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio).

One focuses on alternatives to traditional enforcement of low-level marijuana possession laws, such as diversion programs, while the other charge covers the rollout of recent laws like the Sandra Bland Act as well as needed improvements to the criminal justice system as a whole.

State and local leaders, policy experts, and criminal justice professionals like judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law enforcement officials are all expected to testify. The committee will also hear from mental healthcare providers and advocates, who play an important role in our justice system.

Moody’s expertise on these topics is considerable: “I’ve been a prosecutor, defended indigent people accused of crimes, and dealt with statewide criminal justice policy for over a decade now. I’ve been able to put that experience together into meaningful reforms as chairman of Criminal Jurisprudence, and I’m excited to bring the committee home to see and hear from the community where my work has been focused.”

Among the representatives expected to attend are Vice Chairman Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), Rep Cole Hefner (R-Mt. Pleasant), and Rep. Mike Lang (D-Granbury), along with several members of the El Paso delegation.

“I am looking forward to attending this hearing being held in El Paso, especially under the leadership of Chairman Moody,” Vice Chairman Hunter commented. “Such important topics need input and discussion. I believe we will learn a great deal of information at this hearing.”

Local officials are likewise prepared for a productive proceeding. “El Paso County has been a leader on many criminal justice issues,” said Judge Alma Trejo, who heads the county’s Council of Judges. “We’re always working to expand on that, so we’re proud to show the committee—and Texas—our indigent defense reforms, effective specialty courts, and procedural innovations that have made our system fairer and more efficient.”

The hearing is open to the public, although testimony will be by invitation only. However, any members of the public who would like to share their thoughts on these topics are encouraged to contact their state representative through www.fyi.legis.texas.gov.