The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP have filed a lawsuit, on behalf of people jailed without lawyers in Travis County, to affirm the constitutional right to counsel at first appearance.

Travis County requires people who are arrested to attend their first criminal court appearance without providing the constitutional right to a lawyer for people who cannot afford one. 

The lawsuit states that this lack of legal representation at first appearances forces individuals to advocate for themselves in precarious and unfamiliar situations. People who cannot afford to pay cash upfront to secure their release are unfairly jailed for days as they wait for an attorney to finally be appointed to them to secure the freedom they may have been entitled to all along.

The plaintiff in this case, who is in his late 30s and experiences homelessness, was arrested on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, and booked into Travis County Jail. He requested a court-appointed lawyer, but at the time of filing our lawsuit, one had not been appointed an he remains locked up under a pretrial detention order issued against him, without counsel, at his first appearance. Our client seeks to represent a plaintiff class of all similarly situated detained people at Travis County Jail.

Date filed

April 10, 2024


United States District Court for the Western District of Texas