Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have imported the civil mediation process into non-violent, non-sexual, and non-drug-related criminal law matters prosecuted in the state. According to a statement issued by Governor Abbott, he objected to the measure because:
Mediation is a process available in civil lawsuits by which parties can work out their disputes without using courts. House Bill 3184 imports the civil law process of mediation into criminal law, allowing for mediation between the victim of the crime and the criminal to take the place of prosecution by the State, even in some violent felony cases. This “victim-offender mediation” leaves out a key party in criminal litigation-the State of Texas. Criminal indictments in Texas allege that a crime has been committed “against the peace and dignity of the State.” The State, not the victim of crime, brings criminal litigation against the defendant. And while prosecutors do seek justice for victims, their primary duty is to represent the broader public interest in deterring and punishing crime for the good of all Texans. Making amends with the victim of a crime does not absolve the criminal of his legal debt to the State. Mediation is not well-suited to the criminal context and should be reserved for civil cases.
Representative Mark Keough reportedly stated he was disappointed by the Governor’s choice because the proposal was intended to save Texas taxpayers money, make victims of a variety of crimes whole, and reduce rates of recidivism. Additionally, the proposed measure was not mandatory and would only have applied to first-time offenders. Representative Keough added that the vetoed law could not have been implemented without approval from a county’s commissioners court.