Transparency at the Courthouse

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For years, Tarrant County’s Office of Attorney Appointments (OAA) has kept statistics on which courts are using the rotation wheel to appoint counsel for indigent defendants. Presently, the judges see those statistics while the public does  not.  Don Hase believes those statistics should be public.

If I am elected judge of County Criminal Court Number One, the statistics for this court will be posted, and I hope all courts will eventually post  all statistics.

It is crucial that these numbers accurately reflect which defendants are screened by Financial Information Officers (FIO) and which defendants are not screened; otherwise, the system is not transparent and the public cannot get an accurate picture of its criminal justice system.

The Fair Defense Act (and the Tarrant County System) provides that a judge can make an appointment from the bench, but in order to do so, good cause must be found and made part of the record of that case.  Good cause is not that a particular lawyer happens to be in court at a particular time.

“The 2001 Fair Defense Act signed by Governor Perry sought to end patronage at the criminal courthouse. It is important that the public have confidence in its criminal justice system. By following the rules and using the rotation appointment wheels, courts position themselves to avoid even the appearance of cronyism. When judges don’t follow the rules, Tarrant taxpayers pay the price.”

 Bench appointments should be rare. The default position of the system is  that screening for indigency should always occur, and when indigency findings  are made, the Office of Attorney Appointments should make the appointment to whoever is up next on the appointment “wheel.”


The felony courts have a  judicial dashboard on the Tarrant County website which posts statistics for the courts and can be easily accessed by the public.  Don Hase believes misdemeanor courts should implement a similar website for misdemeanor court statistics that includes the number of appointments each court made on and off the wheel.


The public must have confidence in the criminal justice system, and this can best be achieved by it being transparent.  One of the best ways to achieve transparency is through fully-searchable statistics.

Don Hase has a passion to make the criminal justice system be the best that  it can be.  He has dedicated his life to this goal. He believes judges should be responsible stewards of taxpayer money; money that should be used wisely, on cases where the law requires that it  be spent, not on defendants who are not truly indigent.

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