Collin County is facing a “judicial emergency” according to district judges who say courts are having a tough time keeping up with the number of new cases being filed.
Collin County serves 150% more people than Dallas and Tarrant counties, according to State District Judges Andrea Thompson and Emily Miskel.
Judges Thompson and Miskel are two of Collin County’s 11 District Judges.
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This week, they went before Collin County Commissioners to request two more district judges be added.
“We’re kind of at the tipping point where the case load is such where something’s going to have to change,” said Judge Thompson.
23,621 new cases were filed in Collin County District Courts from May 2017 to April 2018.
That's 2,147 per court which means each judge has to finalize about nine cases per day just to keep up.
Each judge can only devote 53 minutes of time on average to each case.
“I will have people come in and ask for a three-day trial and my mental calculation is, if I'm going to find three days to give to one case, that means I need to find 26 other cases that are going to take zero minutes,” said Judge Miskel.
Judge Thompson said their two options are to take less time on cases or delay them.
Zeke Fortenberry is a private civil attorney who spent years prosecuting criminal cases for the Collin County District Attorney.
“The judges are working as hard as they can. They're some of the hardest working people I know,” Fortenberry said.
Fortenberrey says Collin County's growing population means case loads for judges are growing, too, making it tougher for victims and defendants to have their day in court.
“I think whether you’re the victim of a crime or you’re the victim of a car wreck or other injury, you want your day in court and more judges means you get that day in court sooner,” Fortenberry said.
Collin County Judge Keith Self says commissioners will look at the data during upcoming budget meetings.
Commissioners would still have to get the state to sign off before adding judges.
September of next year would be earliest any new judges could take the bench.