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Courtroom shortage causing problems

By DAVID TEWES
Jan. 3, 2011 at 6:04 p.m.
Updated Jan. 2, 2011 at 7:03 p.m.

County Judge Don Pozzi

THE PROBLEMVictoria County has eight judges.

There are four district judges, two court-at-law judges, a county judge and a master.

But there are only four courtrooms for them to use.

The new year started out with a little drama Monday for personnel at the Victoria County Courthouse.

There was apparently a tug-of-war going on over who would use what courtroom. The issue prompted County Judge Don Pozzi to call a meeting Wednesday with other judges to work out the issue.

"I am put in the position of, regardless of the problem, trying to resolve the problem," Pozzi said. "My position is, it's the responsibility of commissioners court to determine how space is allocated in the courthouse."

Court-at-Law Judge Dan Gilliam, elected last year, said the court clerks arrived at work Monday to discover a desk and equipment, normally in the courtroom used by the court-at-law No. 2 judge, had been moved.

Gilliam said it's his understanding it ended up in the courtroom used by the commissioners court. He said he wasn't consulted by anyone about the change.

"We got that situation rectified and we went forward and we had a docket," Gilliam said. "We heard about 18 criminal cases."

District Clerk Cathy Stuart declined to comment, and County Clerk Robert Cortez referred questions to Pozzi.

Pozzi would not comment on who made the decision to move the equipment. He said it would be up to District Judge Stephen Williams and the court-at-law judges to comment, if they chose to.

Williams said he would have no comment until after the meeting Wednesday and Court-at-Law Judge Laura Weiser said she wasn't sure what was happening.

"Being the new kid on the block, I'm just going to try to assess the situation and work out some collegiality with the judges so we can work out the scheduling issues," Gilliam said.

Pozzi said courtroom space has been an issue for years. He said there are eight judges and only four courtrooms.

The commissioners court has had plans to make major renovations in the courthouse and to build additional offices. Those were put on hold because of tight budgets.

"I said back at that time, and I've said for at least the last three years, that when we are able, my No. 1 priority as far as any expansion, is courtroom space," Pozzi said. "That is the most needed space, as I see it, in the county."

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