Public hearing set for bill aimed at Brown County pre-trial donation program


BROWNWOOD, Texas - A Texas House bill to repeal legislation that allows Brown County Attorney Shane Britton to take donations from criminal defendants is scheduled to go before a public hearing at the State Capitol.

State Rep. Mike Lang filed HB 2273 to remove language permitting Britton's office to accept donations from defendants in exchange for leniency. The bill will be heard before the Civil Jurisprudence Committee at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Several people will testify in support of Lang's bill, including Brown County Commissioner Gary Worley.

"We believe that it's a good thing because the language needs to be cleared up and the appearance of impropriety is there," he said.

Commissioners approved Britton's request to create the Brown County Attorney Donation Fund in 2007 after H.B. 1930 passed. The bill gave the license for six counties to participate in accepting donations, but only Britton's office created such a fund.

Last year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton ruled that Britton's fund didn't operate within the law.

Sen. Dawn Buckingham filed Senate Bill 1293 to address that issue. Her bill would make it a third-degree felony for a district or county attorney, or a commissioners' court to accept a donation as part of a defendant's pre-trial diversion program.

"I actually think the senate bill is better then house bill at this moment," Worley said. "The house bill will probably get amended a little bit to come more in line with what the senate is doing."

"It was legislation that needed to be repealed," Lang told KTXS on Monday. "We'll go down and lay out the bill … we haven't heard of any opposition at this time."

Lang's bill caused Brown County Judge Ray West to issue a public statement asking the lawmaker to notify commissioners next time there's a bill filed involving his county. But Lang said since then he's received full support from county officials on H.B. 2273.

"Shane Britton came down here to Austin. We had a great talk, he's for the bill," Lang said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Lubbock is investigating Britton for bribery and corruption related to his donation program. Defendants in misdemeanor cases would pay his office a $500 donation under a pre-trial diversion program to get a lesser charge, or even have it removed off their record.

If H.B. 2273 is voted out of the Civil Jurisprudence Committee sometime next week, it will go before the house floor for a vote.