State grants more courts for booming Travis, Hays counties
As Travis and Hays counties continue along their supersonic path of booming population growth, more new residents mean more arrests, more trials and growing court caseloads.
To lighten those caseloads, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 1329, passed in the regular legislative session, that will add new district courts in both counties (none were added for Williamson or Bastrop counties). The judges first will be appointed by Abbott but elected in the next general election. The state covers the judges’ salaries; the counties pay for the operating and administrative costs and other salaries.
Here’s a look at the need in each county:
■ What it has now: 10 civil district courts and eight criminal courts.
■ What it’s getting: A civil court this October and a criminal court in October 2019.
■ About the need: The civil courts here have seen a 52 percent increase in judicial hearings since 2009. The last district court created for the civil and family cases in Travis County was in 2005.
On the criminal docket, judges note that violent crime has increased 21 percent in the past five years. These charges tend to result in more jury trials, judges have told county commissioners, and the pileup of cases can mean more inmates having lengthy stays at the county jail while they’re awaiting trial.
The last criminal court added to Travis County was in 2013.
■ What it has now: Four district courts handlingboth civil and criminal cases.
■ What it’s getting: A court in October 2018, likely handling a mix of cases.
■ About the need: The number of pending civil cases rose 37 percent from December 2011 (4,693 cases) to December 2016 (6,461 cases), District Clerk Beverly Crumley said. Pending criminal cases rose 15 percent in that same period, from 1,631 to 1,869 cases. The last district court was added in 2005.
Daniel E. Arredondo, of the San Marcos Police Officer’s Association, said the growth has created backlogs and delayed felony and misdemeanor cases from going to trial on time.
“In a recent instance, a sexual assault case took almost two years to go to trial,” Arredondo told Hays County commissioners in a February 2017 letter. “This slow process does not serve the victims who are awaiting justice, the offender who wants his day in court or the community efficiently.”