Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who attended much of the injunction hearing and has been a strong advocate for the indigent defendants who brought the case, said his takeaway was also that it is time for the county to settle, although he sees that as a victory for the litigants.

“Harris County still has no valid defense for its indefensible, unfair and unsafe bail system that left poor low-risk misdemeanor defendants to languish behind bars simply because they could not afford bail — nothing about this ruling changes that,” Ellis said. “It is unconscionable that this case continues to drag on and that Harris County has spent over $6 million in taxpayer dollars that could have been invested in reforming our bail system to fully protect both our constitutional rights and public safety.”

The 2016 lawsuit was brought by Maranda ODonnell, a young mother held in jail for two days after she couldn’t afford the $2,500 bail on a charge of driving with a suspended license. Lawyers from Civil Rights Corps, in Washington, D.C., the Texas Fair Defense Project and free counsel from the Susman Godfrey law firm in Houston expanded the lawsuit to a civil rights class action on behalf of all people in ODonnell’s situation.

JUDGE PROFILE: Rosenthal rules federal courts in Houston region with firm hand

Rosenthal found that county bail hearings did not take place within 24 hours of arrest and judges were not making meaningful assessments of whether people could pay the amounts set at bail hearings. She ruled the outcomes for those who cannot afford to post bond are significantly worse than for those who can.

The appeals court found, as it had previously, the 24-hour timeline for releasing qualified misdemeanor defendants imposed too heavy of a burden on county officials. Instead, the court said those arrested are entitled to a hearing within 48 hours.

The court ruled that poor arrestees in Harris County were held in jail whereas similarly situated wealthy arrestees were not, solely based on the fact that one group could not afford to pay a secured bond.

The appeals judges repeated their earlier findings that the trial court abused its discretion with an injunction that was overly broad. They instructed Rosenthal to narrowly tailor her new injunction to remedy the specific problem identified in her finding.

The appellate judges also amended their ruling to include the sheriff as a defendant in the case.

The ruling said it will be up to Rosenthal to figure out the details of the new injunction order. Rosenthal asked the parties to prepare a joint proposal and to outline areas where their suggestions differ.

Gabrielle Banks covers federal court for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and send her tips at