Victory! Fees Unconstitutional Under Separation of Powers
The case of Orlando Salinas v Texas began 5 years ago. I challenged in the trial court the imposition of court costs that were wholly unrelated to the court system. The theory was that this violated the separation of powers clause because it made the court tax collectors.
I lost at the intermediate court of appeals (with one dissent). Our highest criminal appellate court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA), granted discretionary review and remanded it back on a severability issue. I re-litigated it in the intermediate court of appeals and lost again – this time the former dissenting judge voting to reject my claim. The CCA again granted discretionary review and we fought again.
Ultimately, after 5 years and 14 briefs, the CCA has held that criminal court costs not related to criminal justice issues are unconstitutional. The CCA struck the costs (but with a scary footnote that the legislature can fix it if they make the costs go towards criminal justice issues).
There are many more costs to challenge. The CCA agreed with the theory and will be getting more challenges. In 10 days, I have an argument on the constitutionality of Sheriff's fees for indigent clients. After all these years, I think some dominoes are going to fall and we're going to see some relief for our clients.
It helps to know we are not alone.