As some Texas district and county attorneys refuse to prosecute certain crimes, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan says he will prioritize legislation to remove prosecutors who pick and choose which crimes to punish.
Ahead of the bill filing deadline, Cook’s House Bill 17 was named among Phelan’s priority legislation.
Cook’s legislation would require the enforcement of criminal laws by prohibiting prosecutors—both district and county attorneys alike—from adopting policies preventing the enforcement of certain laws.
The measures Cook has filed to take disciplinary action against prosecutors refusing to do their jobs comes as a direct response to actions taken by DAs across the state.
Last summer, five Texas DAs—Jose Garza (Travis County), John Creuzot (Dallas County), Joe Gonzales (Bexar County), Mark Gonzalez (Nueces County), and Brian Middleton (Fort Bend County)—announced their refusal to prosecute illegal abortions.
“Here in Travis County, we will not force women into the shadows, especially when they need life-saving medical care,” said Garza. “Here in Travis County, we will not criminalize personal health care decisions.”
In a joint letter, the DAs said criminalizing abortions was “a mockery of justice.”
This was not the first time Creuzot had hand-selected which crimes to punish. In 2019, Creuzot announced he would not prosecute some “low-level” and nonviolent crimes.
Despite warnings from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Gov. Greg Abbott, Creuzot refused to reverse his new policy.
Cook’s measure would require accountability for prosecutors.
Under this measure, if a prosecutor were to fail to recognize their duty to enforce all criminal laws, they could be removed from their respective position.
Texas GOP Chairman Matt Rinaldi, who has been critical of Phelan’s previous lists of priorities for this session, gave his approval, saying he was especially “happy to see Rep. David Cook’s bill in here removing DAs who refuse to prosecute crimes.”
— Matt Rinaldi (@MattRinaldiTX) March 11, 2023
Rinaldi even said Cook’s measure was “one of the most important bills this session.”