Backlog of domestic violence cases plagues Bexar County courts


The commissioners are asking the 15 courts in Bexar County to open their cases and help with thousands of pending domestic violence cases.

A resolution approved on Tuesday notes a current backlog of 5,600 cases in the two correctional courts assigned to the bulk of those cases, even after other correctional court judges helped during the pandemic.

“This is about the safety of the most vulnerable in this community,” said Commissioner Trish DeBerry, who sponsored the resolution.

Some victims of domestic violence “may currently be in real danger” because of the delayed cases, DeBerry said.

“This resolution is just the start, but it sends the message that we are hearing them, that they are not being forgotten and that those who committed the crimes will be held accountable,” DeBerry said in a statement during the meeting of commissioners.

DeBerry wants cases to be distributed evenly among the 15 county courts, rather than being concentrated in two.

The resolution calls on all county courts to open their cases to hear domestic violence cases “until we clear the backlog,” DeBerry said, adding that District Attorney Joe Gonzales supported the resolution.

“Justice delayed is justice denied to victims of crime,” Gonzales told commissioners.

County Court Judge No.13 Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez, one of two lawyers regularly assigned to hear cases, said the district attorney’s office would need more victims’ attorneys to cover all of the cases. law courts. Gonzalez said training for judges and prosecutors and improvements in information technology would also be needed, especially if cases are spread evenly as a long-term approach to tackling domestic violence.

Another obstacle is resistance from some county judges who have started hearing domestic violence cases for misdemeanors. Last year, six more judges began handling some of the cases in an attempt to reduce the backlog.

But about two weeks ago, some of the judges reversed course – privately indicating that they no longer wanted to deal with cases due to problems with the county’s computer system in distributing the workload and a growing awareness of the difficulty and time to manage. domestic violence cases.

DeBerry said the county should provide the support judges need to reduce the workload, and Judge Gonzalez said the IT department was not under the authority of the lawyers.

“There are other powers that control the quality of the IT services we get,” Gonzalez said.

The commissioners also discussed:

Overtime in prison

Overtime at the Bexar County Jail is a constant problem as Sheriff Javier Salazar has struggled to fill vacancies.

The sheriff has requested approval for 96,170 hours of overtime paid at $ 3.9 million for the period May 31 through September 30 – the end of the budget year. The county’s budget and finance department said approval of the request would bring total prison overtime for the year to nearly $ 12.4 million, about $ 3.5 million more than the budget.

Commissioners approved overtime, but said they wanted to keep working to cut costs.

“It’s not personal. It’s really about being able to find a solution, ”said DeBerry, who previously argued with Salazar about overtime in prison.

DeBerry said she wanted the county to consider hiring an outside prison consultant to reduce overtime. Salazar countered that he had hired a new prison administrator and is hoping that an expected new collective agreement with the Bexar County Deputy Sheriff’s Association will allow for salary increases and a faster salary increase schedule to improve. recruitment and retention.

Electoral redistribution

The commissioners selected the law firms of Rolando L. Rios, at a cost of no more than $ 100,000, to provide advice on the redistribution to the county level following the 2020 US census, which was delayed by the pandemic. Law firm Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta also bid on the contract, but commissioners Justin Rodriguez and Tommy Calvert said they were more familiar with the redistribution work done by Rios in the past.

When considering changes to the city walls in the past, the county has sought to:

preserving the voting power of minorities

follow geographic boundaries as much as possible

avoid dividing neighborhoods

maintain relatively equal populations in the four districts with a gap of less than 10 percent

For cyclists, runners and walkers

Commissioners heard a presentation on the city’s grant application to build a 4.5-mile extension of the Zarzamora Creek Greenway hiking and biking trail on the West Side through a U.S. Department of Transportation infrastructure program. The trail would stretch from Tierra del Sol Park on the west side to VIA’s metropolitan transit hub, helping to connect the Leon Creek Greenway to the creek trails on the west side.

The commissioner tribunal has offered to help expand the local greenway network as funds become available. A local sales tax of 1/8 of a cent for greenways has expired and tax funds are expected to run out in mid-2022.

Constant-capable

Constituency 1 agent Ruben Tejeda received the County Hidalgo Award for more than 40 years of service – 42, in fact – in Bexar County. Tejeda served as the Sheriff’s Deputy for 13 years and has served as an elected constable for 28 years. Last fall, when commissioners considered cutting 38 deputy police officer positions across the county in the 2021 budget, Tejeda and others persuaded them to cut just 19 jobs.

“It was difficult, but I think we have improved the police officer’s office throughout Bexar County for many years,” Tejada said.

From one commission to another

The commissioners presented a Distinguished Service Award from the Texas Historical Commission to the Bexar County Historical Commission for its “active and well-balanced preservation program”. The local panel is one of the 84 county historical commissions receiving recognition; 175 county historical commissions submitted annual reports during the pandemic.

Additionally, the County Hidalgo Prize was awarded to historian Felix Almaraz Jr. for his nearly 50 years of service to the local commission, beginning in 1973.

“It has been a splendid ride for 48 years,” said Almaraz, who will continue to work on border region studies.

Editor-in-chief Emilie Eaton contributed to this report.

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