Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Travis County Judges are asking for help with the backlog of cases

Each month Travis County court-at-law judges handle thousands of criminal cases. Judges say their average monthly caseload has increased 60 percent since 2002

“So the decision has been made to ask for one new court,” Court-at-Law #3 Judge David Crain said.

The five judges made their requested during a work session with county commissioners last month. Each county court currently has an average of 3,200 cases pending.

“The most labor intensive case is a DWI,” Crain said. (I guess my office probably has something to do with that.)

In the last decade, the number of DWI cases has risen 135 percent. Judges say the number of cases and the type of cases are taking its toll.

“There will be a time when our ability to function the criminal justice system and have orderliness and protect the community will be compromised,” Crain said.

Adding a sixth court-at-law would reduce the caseload for each judge to around 2,000 a month. Crain said that’s a more realistic number.

Creating a new court requires approval of the Texas Legislature, but it’s up to the county to fund it.

Last year, Hays County added another district court. They say it’s allowed them to signficantly reduce the number of backlogged cases.

“That’s important for the taxpayers because it means it takes less time for cases to get to trial. It means that fewer people who are waiting in jail,” 428th District Court Judge Bill Henry said.

In Travis County, the judges hope lawmakers approve a new court-at-law this legislative session so a new judge can take the stand by January 2008.

A new court would cost the county around $800,000 and would mainly cover salaries for additional staff.

If the commissioners court asks the Legislature to create a new court, funding would come from the 2007 - 2008 budget.

Click here for the full story as reported by New 8 Austin