Glenn Devlin has been accused of “abdicating responsibility” following his ruling in Houston, Texas on Wednesday, which came a day after he lost his re-election bid to a Democrat rival.
His judicial seat was one of 59 swept up by a blue wave in Harris County after people went to the polls on Tuesday – and he reportedly claimed that he was releasing the juveniles “because that’s what the voters wanted”.
Prosecutors in court voiced their concerns about their seemingly indiscriminate release, with some those facing charges having been accused of violent crimes such as aggravated burglary.
In a statement, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said: “We oppose the wholesale release of violent offenders at any age. This could endanger the public.”
According to the Houston Chronicle, Judge Devlin – one of three Republican judges stationed at juvenile courts in the state to have lost their jobs – had built a reputation for being more than willing to send youths to jail.
Last month, the newspaper reported that he and another Republican judge on the circuit accounted for more than 20% of all the children sent to Texan juvenile prisons in 2017 – even though the overall numbers were down.
The sudden leniency shown by Judge Devlin – who simply asked the youths whether they planned to kill anyone before letting them go – was described as “baffling” by chief county lawyer Alex Bunin.
“I’m not sure that I can wrap my arms around what he’s actually doing,” he told the Chronicle.
“It’s a huge change and the only thing that has happened is that he was not elected, so I don’t know what to attribute it to other than that.”
By law, youths who are waiting behind bars before their cases are resolved are entitled to detention hearings every 10 days to decide whether they can be released under supervision.
Judge Devlin has allowed prisoners to go free under such circumstances before, but those in court on Wednesday were not expected to be released and their parents were not even present to take them home.
The cases have reportedly been rescheduled for when the new Democrat judges take up their roles in January.