New District Court

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Commissioners Court is considering a request to the legislature to add new courts in Collin County, both District Court and County Court at Law. We had two lengthy commissioners court discussions with the District Court Local Administrative Judge and will take up the issue again during the February 9 Commissioners Court (not this Monday, but next).

I write about this issue a week earlier than normal because of the wide-spread interest in the issue. In order to give credit where due, the idea below was advocated last week by Commissioner Duncan Webb.

The numbers of criminal, family, and civil cases, sliced and diced different ways, seem to support just over one new District Court. (Those numbers are available to you in the court packet at http://public1.co.collin.tx.us/public_notices/default.aspx).

However, the issue seems to be not only the absolute number of cases, but even more importantly, the state mandate that criminal cases must be heard in court before family and civil cases, with family law cases most often mentioned as needing more capacity.

Therefore:

1. The most efficient addition to our court system in order to the get family law cases heard the quickest is a specialized court that hears nothing but family law cases. The biggest throughput pipe, if you will. A specialized family law court would answer the immediate issue – the need to hear family law cases faster.

2. A specialized family law court provides the data mentioned by Commissioner Duncan Webb last week. If we added a specialized family law court in September, we would have a full year of pure, family-law-only data in order to make a decision whether to ask for more specialized or general jurisdiction courts in the 2017 legislative session.

3. The Governor will almost certainly appoint the first judge to any new court. If we create a specialized family law court, it is more likely that the Governor will appoint an attorney with family law experience, perhaps even board certification, to the specialized bench.

I like the position advocated last week by Commissioner Webb. It responds to the immediate need, it gives us data to determine the future of our courts, and it makes it more certain that we will get a family law attorney appointed to the specialized bench.

It may not be the only way to hear family law cases faster and to get better data for the future, but it looks good.