Cameron, Starr district attorneys seek to withdraw from Hidalgo County DA conflict cases

Hidalgo District Attorney Terry Palacios witnesses proceedings in the 275th state District Court at the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])
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Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
In this image from video, District Attorney Gocha Allen Ramirez speaks in a campaign announcement. (Monitor Screencapture)

The district attorneys for Cameron and Starr counties have filed a joint motion to withdraw from a combined 215 cases that they were appointed to in Hidalgo County because its DA has conflicts of interest.

In that motion, Cameron County DA Luis V. Saenz and Starr County DA Gocha Allen Ramirez state that the distance between the county seats creates a burden on their much smaller departments.

The county seat of Starr County in Rio Grande City is 47 miles from the Hidalgo County Courthouse while the county seat of Cameron County in Brownsville is 64 miles away.

They also allege that Hidalgo County has represented that it won’t reimburse Starr and Cameron Counties for the prosecution of these cases, which include homicides and intoxication manslaughter.

“It has been represented that there is no money available to subsidize Cameron County’s litigation of Hidalgo County’s cases,” the motion states.

Hidalgo County DA Toribio “Terry” Palacios argued that the county does have the funds to pay.

“No, that’s not true,” Palacios said.

He added that his office is attempting to save Hidalgo County money and that questions regarding the motion needed to be referred to Saenz and Ramirez.

When asked to respond, Saenz declined citing the pending motion.

Palacios is a longtime defense attorney who had some involvement in those 215 cases prior to winning the election to be district attorney.

The motion also states that Ramirez is responsible for prosecuting felonies in not only Starr but also in Jim Hogg and Duval counties.

In addition, the motion alleges that Cameron County is short staffed as a prosecutor contracted COVID-19 and their docket had to be juggled between various prosecutors.

“Cameron County simply is insufficiently staffed to cover an additional docket in Hidalgo County,” the motion states. “The result may be a haphazardly managed docket in Hidalgo and unresolved cases in Cameron, Starr, Jim Hogg and Duval Counties.”

A hearing in the matter is scheduled for early November.