Mission and Vision
In our society, liberty is the norm, and detention prior to trial or without trial is the carefully limited exception.” United States v. Salerno (1987). As the Presiding Judge of the 209th District Court, Judge Warren has continually looked for improvements to the criminal justice system, including the need for intelligent bond reform. He has worked to change the way bonds are set in Harris County. Along with the other newly elected Harris County District Court Judges, he is proud to have been at the forefront of passing the largest general order bond in our county’s history. This has enabled the felony district courts to release many non-violent offenders on a personal bond who would otherwise be awaiting trial in custody for upwards of a year or longer.
Judge Warren has voluntarily appeared in Federal Court before the Honorable Judge Lee Rosenthal, the Chief United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. He has appeared as a witness to offer details regarding the efforts judges were making in order to reduce the number of pre-trial detainees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Judge Warren has supported and implemented many of her proposals in an effort to improve the current system. The Federal Judge remarked in a May 24th hearing that Judge Warren “sets the standard for all of the felony judges to emulate” when it comes to bail reform.
“Warren, a Democrat who was elected as presiding judge of the 209th Criminal Court, defeating a judge who berated Black Lives Matter, said he supports ‘intelligent bond reform’ in his request to join the case.”
“’The pandemic has brought this into stark relief,’ Warren said. He noted that bail has disproportionately affected people of color.‘The implementation of bond reform is a complex issue. It requires well-reasoned and intelligent proposals,’ his motion said.”
“’We must work harder to change a system which has historically been discriminatory towards people of color and those who are destitute and who can barely put food on the table, let alone make a large bond for a family member,’ Warren said.”
Judge Warren understands that a defendant has a constitutionally protected right to zealous and effective representation. He believes that this representation is essential to the administration of criminal justice. Judge Warren inherited a court in which six contract attorneys handled all of the Indigent criminal defense. This practice caused all six of those lawyersto handle cases way in excess of the American Bar Association caseload limits. Often these lawyers were stretched so thin by the former policies of the court that they would have, in some cases, nearly 10 times as many cases pending than was recommended. Additionally, the former judge refused to utilize the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) as mandated by Texas law. Since taking the bench, Judge Warren has had the third highest utilization of the PDO. He also eliminated the practice of having contract lawyers whom only work for the judge and expanded indigent defense in the 209th District Court to include all of the defense bar approved and vetted to handle indigent defense.
Judge Warren has continued to look for innovative and safe alternatives in order to reduce the jail population. In an order to release the eligible inmates in his court, state District Judge Brian Warren noted that people regularly take plea deals understanding they could be released sooner if they accumulate enough credit. On March 29th Gov. Greg Abbott eliminated good time for credit for many jail inmates. Many inmates recently learned that their sentences had tripled in length. Warren said. Governor Abbotts, executive order was found unconstitutional That stemmed from an executive order Gov. Greg Abbott issued on March 29 in anticipation of Harris County’s plan to release some inmates from the jail, which was tagged early on as a potential hotspot for coronavirus spread.
When Judge Warren was elected to the bench in 2019, the 209th District Court was still reliant on paper files and paper filings. In the past year, as we have all become accustomed to using Zoom and other video conferencing, it’s hard to picture a court which did not even have computers. Immediately after being elected, Judge Warren mandated electronic filing in all cases. Electronic filing increases transparency by having documents available on-line and greatly improved the efficiency of the court by allowing attorneys and parties to view digital copies of the court documents. In the past year, where many have chosen or been forced to work remotely, this change has allowed remote proceedings to take place efficiently and safely. Judge Warren was selected by the United States Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and the National Judicial College, selected as one of 24 judges from across the country to receive training at the National Computer Forensics Institute (NCFI).
Judge Warren took over the largest criminal docket in Harris County. Through hard work and innovation, the 209th now has the 6th lowest docket. Judge Warren tried more cases to jury trial before the Covid-19 pandemic than any other criminal district court. The dedication to being available and willing to go to trial ensures that cases are not reset needlessly. A jury trial is the constitutional guarantee to fundamental fairness. However, only a trial court calling a jury ensures that both defendants and victims get their day in court. Judge Warren also eliminated duplicate and redundant court settings. Defendants often were required to appear in court every 30 days regardless of whether or not it was necessary for them to appear for their cases. Often, defendants would come to court to reset their cases while evidence was being tested and discovery was produced. This causes overcrowding at the courthouse and countless wasted resources. Judge Warren continues to look for new and innovative ways for the courthouse to be more efficient and ensure justice for all.