Officials Debate Over Use of New Ector County District Court

Officials Debate Over Use of New Ector County District Court

ECTOR COUNTY, TX (KWES) - Ector County is expected to add on a 5th District Court soon. It's aimed to help to deal with a backlog of cases but now there is disagreement on what kind of cases the new court will be used for. Both sides agree that a 5th District Court is needed in Ector County. The big question is, will it be home to criminal court cases or family law cases.

"The purpose of the court, mainly, was to make sure we had another criminal court to move cases through the system. That has always been the discussion and now all of a sudden they want to talk about making it into a family court," said Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland.

The county jail has been dealing with an overcrowding issue for some time. Bland says the 5th District Court could help turn that around, but only if it's used specifically for criminal cases.

"To do anything else with that court undermines the whole purpose of it. All I see are additional cost to the community that doesn't need to be spent. We would be better off, quite frankly, as far as I'm concerned not even having a fifth court if we're just going to turn that into a family court," said Bland.

"I just don't see that being the case. As long as our cases are moving, all of our cases are moving faster, then at the end of the day, we've met our goal," said Ector County Judge Susan Redford.

She agreed that moving criminal cases through is a priority but she says the 5th District Court isn't the only option to tackle that problem.

"It frees the other four courts up to move more criminal cases and that's our main goal in creating this court is to get these felonies moved through our system quicker and get them out of our jail," said Redford.

She also says family law cases are rising just as fast.

"I think to try to work to create that into a family court is a mistake and I don't think that's beneficial to this community," said Bland.

In the end, if the new 5th District Court will hear criminal cases or family law cases, that decision will be up to the district judges.

"The five that will be sitting, the five district judges, it will be their ultimate decision as far as what court hears what cases," said Redford.

The bill brought forward by Representative Brooks Landgraf has been passed by both the House and Senate. It now sits on Governor Greg Abbott's desk waiting to be signed.