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Senator files bill to create new court: County Judge envisions court relieving backlog
Texas State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, filed legislation on Tuesday to establish a new court in Denton County.
Senate Bill 290 seeks to create the 442nd Judicial District Court in Denton County, which would be a new general jurisdiction court intended to help manage rising caseload growth. Caseloads are now experiencing a burgeoning back-load in fast-growing Denton County, which has increased in population by more than 63 percent since 2000 and is now home to more than 686,000 people. According to the Office of Court Administration, Denton County needs 1.6 new judges to meet caseload growth.
"Because of massive population growth in Denton County, our local courts have seen a significant increase in caseloads," said Senator Nelson. "A new court is needed to ensure that our citizens have efficient access to the judicial system."
According to Attorney General Opinion GA-0764 (2010) - should the bill pass through the legislature and be signed into law by the governor - it would create an appointment by the governor to the court's bench, effective when the new court is scheduled to convene on Jan. 1, 2014. The new district judge would serve until the next general election, which would be in November, 2014.
The voters would then select a new judge or retain the incumbent, who would serve the remainder of the term until Dec, 31, 2016. In November 2016, there would be another election for a full four-year term to begin on Jan. 1, 2017.
The cost to the state would be the judge's salary, which is $125,000 a year. The county can supplement that up to $15,000 for a total maximum salary of $140,000.
"We are creating what we call a court of general jurisdiction," said Denton County Judge Mary Horn, the county's chief executive officer. "In my conversations w/ several other judges just today ... it would go for backlog and that is why I was in support of creating this court.
"Initially, we think it would be to help with our backlog in civil cases, such as child custody matters," Judge Horn said. "I call it 'local control of caseloads' which we can do without having to go back to the legislature to have [the designation of the nature of the court] changed again, in case we need to use it for criminal prosecution in the future."
The new court will be inside the courthouse on McKinney Street in Denton.