Top Harris County public defender battling to keep job

- Nothing veiled, nothing camouflaged about the intentions of Harris County Commissioner Steve Radack.

"I put this on the agenda to be able to terminate him," said Radack.

Radack wants top Public Defender Alex Bunin fired, after e-mails revealed his office released the confidential identities of 70 plus juvenile defendants.

"If he is doing something wrong and subjects us to liability and ruins the reputation of kids, as adults, it's my job to do something about it," said Radack at Tuesday's meeting of Commissioner's Court.

Bunin, whose office has earned national accolades for its vigorous defense of low income defendants, told commissioners he'd done nothing wrong by sharing the names with an inmate advocacy group linked to plaintiffs suing the county for bail reform. 

"I'm comfortable it is legal. I am comfortable I violated no law and I'm comfortable those names won't be distributed," said Bunin later adding, "The names and racial descriptions that were released to a person to help us do a report were in the interest of those clients and that is a special exception under the rules of confidentiality."

The batch of e-mails which revealed the released names also revealed Bunin's deep concerns over how Harris County delivers justice to juvenile offenders.

Bunin's boss, Judge Ed Emmett, was not happy.

"If for eight years you have had a concern with the juvenile justice system and you have not trusted me enough or had the decency to bring that to me as the Chair of the Juvenile Board, I'm insulted," said Emmett.

Commissioner Rodney Ellis suggested the attack on Bunin was really pay back for his perceived support of those suing the county for bail reform.

"Everybody knows what the big issue is here, the elephant, so to speak, in the room. It's the bail case," said Ellis.

Rushing to Bunin's aid were dozens of defense lawyers from across the city, county and state of Texas.

"Please understand, that we understand that this attack is baseless, unfounded and retaliatory and we are watching," said Nicole Deborde of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

In the end, commissioners agreed to let independent attorneys on the Harris County Public Defenders Board sift through the facts and the law and recommend whether the embattled Bunin should stay or go.

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