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Rural Texas DAs’ Big Prosecution Dreams

— July 5, 2022

Legislation may be introduced allowing rural Texas DAs to prosecute people outside of their jurisdictions, greasing a slippery slope…

Ever since the original Roe v Wade decision in 1973, conservatives have not only prayed for a reversal, they also worked at it. It took half a century, starting at the grassroots level with local elections like school boards, bringing ideologically-allied candidates up through the ranks and energizing the Republican base with the perennial promise of someday overturning Roe. However, now that Trump’s SCOTUS justices took the reins and are delivering a staggering wish list of conservative decisions, the pieces are coming together for some major changes in American jurisprudence. Rural Texas DAs are poised to take the next logical step with the help of some forward-thinking state legislators.

Laws, no matter how well-intentioned, are of no use unless they’re properly enforced. If the consent of the governed is considered to be the basis of legitimate government, there must exist some prosecutorial discretion on the part of elected officials who can step in and serve as a balance against tyrannical lawmakers or rogue judges. With the current cast of the Supreme Court looking increasingly illegitimate to a majority of Americans, that puts state and local prosecutors on the front line of the culture war. On their shoulders lies the weighty decision of whether to crack down on offenders guilty of breaking unpopular laws, or defending everyday citizens from an unprecedented judicial coup.

Or does it?

Texas, like most of the United States, is a mix of densely populated, more liberal urban areas and sparsely populated, more conservative rural areas. District attorneys in some blue counties have indicated that they may decide not to prosecute certain cases that fall under the recent Supreme Court Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe.

A man in a suit and pale tie at a podium.
TX State Rep. Briscoe Cain in 2018. Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

However, TX State Representative Briscoe Cain, a Republican from the Houston area, has made it a top priority to seek alternative remedies in such cases. He currently supports the introduction of legislation that would allow rural Texas DAs to prosecute people outside of their jurisdictions, or even outside the state of Texas, if the local DA refuses.

Speaking with Inside Texas Politics, Cain admitted that rural Texas DAs would be overstepping and pushing aside elected officials in order to do so, but not only did this not trouble him, he appeared eager to enforce dusty, old pre-1973 statutes on Texans who, by their electoral choices, may well not have consented to the intrusion. “That’s the idea,” he said. “We’re gonna go for it.”

Cain is only one of many emboldened conservatives saying the quiet part out loud lately.

In case you missed it, Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) called the recent SCOTUS decision a “historic victory for white life.” Miller’s campaign backpedaled on her statement, of course, but those words escaped her mouth and fell on a friendly audience.

Justice Clarence Thomas is also doing his level best to signal other policy changes that might be floated in the new judicial atmosphere. If the agenda he attached to his concurring opinion on the Dobbs decision, suggesting the Court was ready to reconsider marriage equality, same-sex relationships, and even the right to use contraception, wasn’t activist enough, Thomas also wants to revisit the landmark 1964 New York Times v Sullivan decision which made it harder to sue media outlets for defamation by requiring that any negative statements about public figures must have been made with “actual malice.”

If you’re aware of the 14 Points and the system they’re based upon, you’ve certainly been able to check plenty of those boxes in recent years. The continuing slide into that paradigm is visibly accelerating. Ratcheting up the ability to sweep aside elected leaders to enforce draconian laws beyond legal boundaries, abuse of power, sexism and racism, and putting a tight rein on the media (which was intended to serve as a watchdog against powerful interests) are all signposts on the road to nowhere good.

Whether they’re Supreme Court justices, congresscritters, or rural Texas DAs, when people show you who they are and what they intend to do, listen to them. Take them seriously.

Related: They’re Coming for Marriage Equality Next


Is the Supreme Court Facing a Legitimacy Crisis?
Travis County district attorney will not prosecute [certain specific] cases
Republican lawmakers in Texas already discussing legislation to further punish [certain specific] crimes
A GOP congresswoman said the end of Roe is a ‘historic victory for white life’
Justice Thomas: SCOTUS ‘should reconsider’ contraception, same-sex marriage rulings
Clarence Thomas signals interest in making it easier to sue media

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