'Feeble Excuse': DC Courts Say They're Too Busy To Explain Why They Release Violent Criminals Before Trial

Proposed measure to combat crime surge in nation's capital 'not feasible,' judge says

(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
September 22, 2023

Washington, D.C.'s court system says it is too busy to comply with a proposal that would require district judges to provide a written explanation when they release a violent criminal before trial, with two top judges dismissing the measure as "not feasible."

D.C. courts on Monday released a letter attacking a measure from city council member Brooke Pinto (D.) aimed at addressing the district's surge in violent crime. Included in the measure is a provision that would require district judges to provide written explanations should they opt to release a violent criminal before trial, which Pinto says will "ensure accountability." That provision, two top D.C. judges said in their letter, is "not feasible" as it would "significantly increase the workload" of the district's judges and clerks.

The rebuke of Pinto's proposal comes as D.C. experiences an ongoing violent crime crisis. Killings in the nation's capital are on pace this year to reach heights not seen in decades, carjackings in June reached their highest total in years, and robberies are up 65 percent year-over-year.

Local lawmakers—including some who have embraced liberal approaches to crime in the past—have responded by floating measures that aim to keep repeat violent offenders behind bars as they await trial and provide transparency when those offenders do secure pretrial release. For former D.C. official Denise Krepp, the court system's claim that it does not have time to comply with Pinto's proposal is baffling.

"I'm puzzled by their response," Krepp told the Washington Free Beacon. "To say that they are too busy to deal with extra paperwork, which is why they are releasing individuals from custody that go on to commit heinous crimes, is a feeble excuse to the residents of D.C."

D.C. courts declined to comment.

In addition to its proposal requiring judges to explain why they release violent offenders before trial, Pinto's measure would allow police to randomly search violent criminals who are on pretrial release. D.C. courts in the Tuesday letter also blasted that provision as unconstitutional. The U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C., however, said in its own statement that it is "confident" Pinto's legislation complies with the Constitution, adding that the office is "prepared to defend the statute's constitutionality in court."

"I am glad Councilmember Pinto approached these bills, and I support her plan to improve public safety," U.S. Attorney Matthew Graves said in the statement. "These provisions will better enable our office to prosecute cases that are harming our communities and fill legal gaps that will make our residents safer."

Criticism of Pinto's proposal to combat crime came from beyond D.C.'s court system. In a Tuesday article, the Washington City Paper went as far as to compare Pinto's approach to a Nazi jurist. Pinto called the comparison "reckless and out of line."

Pinto said she plans to meet with D.C.'s top judges to discuss their concerns with her proposal.

"I am committed to a strong and collaborative partnership with our judicial branch of government, and I look forward to sitting down with our Chief Judges to discuss their letter and the court's perspective," Pinto told the Free Beacon. "I invite robust community input on my Secure DC Plan to improve public safety in the district."

Published under: Crime , Washington D.C.