Breckenridge Texan

County Commissioners support re-establishing Stephens County Court

County Commissioners support re-establishing Stephens County Court
April 01
13:11 2023

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

The Stephens County Commissioners voted unanimously to support the passage of legislation that will reinstate the constitutional powers of the county court.

This year marks 84 years since county officials voluntarily gave up some of the duties of the court. In 1939, Stephens and Shackelford counties were unable to handle the work associated with the courts, and the state legislature assigned those duties to the district courts, Stephens County Judge Michael Roach said at the commissioners meeting on Monday. Several other counties in Texas had the same arrangement.

“You’ve got to remember, this was a time when they had typewriters and no word processes and all that sort of stuff,” Roach said. “So the judges said that the administrative duties that they had were overwhelming. They didn’t have time, and district courts weren’t so busy back then. And so they wanted to move all those cases up there (to the district court). Well, we all know that times have changed now. The District Court hears lots of felonies, and their court states very busy. And so for a variety of reasons, I think reinstating the powers of the Constitutional County Court would be a benefit to the taxpayers and to criminal justice system in our county.”

Once re-established, a county court in Stephens County would hear the misdemeanor cases in the county. Currently, those cases are heard by Judge Stephen Bristow in the 90th Judicial District Court for Stephens and Young counties. The district court also handles felony cases in the county.

Having a county court would allow misdemeanor cases to be handled more quickly, reducing the amount of time inmates stay in the Stephens County Jail, Roach said.

Additionally, Roach said, the proposed county court would handle mental health cases and could impose restrictions that would help ensure that people with mental health issues are taking their medications, etc.

The legislation for re-establishing a Stephens County Court will be introduced by State Rep. Glenn Rogers and State Sen. Phil King, Roach said. If the local bill is approved, Stephens County will set up the court to begin in January.

Click here to read the resolution supporting the constitutional county court.

Sharon Wimberley, standing at right, addresses the Stephens County Commissioners about their resolution naming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Several members of the Child Welfare Board attended the meeting. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Child Abuse Prevention Month

The commissioners also approved a resolution naming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Stephens County.

Members of the Stephens County Child Welfare Board attended the meeting.

“Regrettably, children in our community are victims of abuse and neglect. And today, this court and our community stand united against this evil and we stand for our children,” Roach said, reading from the resolution. “Each year, the month of April is set aside to recognize the dedicated professionals across our great state who meet families upstream before a crisis occurs and offer them accessible lifelines that mitigate their life’s challenges. A collaborative, multifaceted endeavor, child abuse prevention involves the diligent work of our communities, families, friends, neighbors, houses of faith, advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations, schools, healthcare providers, social workers, and government agencies. Guided by a desire to right the wrongs of this world, these compassionate members of our community support our children on a daily basis. Organizations like the Stephens County Child Welfare Board are rays of hope in the dark days of our community’s most vulnerable children.”

The Child Welfare Board Members will be decorating the Stephens County Courthouse lawn again this year, in memory of the Texas children who have died from child abuse and in honor of the local children who are in foster care.

Click here to read the resolution naming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Other Business

During the March 27 meeting, the Stephens County Commissioners also took the following actions:

  • Heard and approved reports from the Stephens County Extension Service.
  • Approved payment of the annual bill for the county’s web hosting.
  • Approved a resolution supporting the establishment of the Cross-Timbers Regional Utility Authority, which would include Stephens, Parker, Palo Pinto counties and possibly Young and Eastland counties. The organization is proposed¬† by State Rep. Rogers and would provide a voice for the region regarding water development, especially in seeking grant funding and planning.

The commissioners decided to take no action on the issue of a burn ban for the county; there is currently no burn ban in place for Stephens County.

In a separate meeting immediately following the regular commissioners meeting, they took no action on a request by Sacred Cross Emergency Medical Service to provide the ambulance service with emergency radios. Roach said the county officials decided to have Sacred Cross work with Stephens Memorial Hospital on acquiring the radios. The last time Sacred Cross was contracted to provided emergency services for Stephens County, the county provided the radios. However, this time, Roach said, the county doesn’t have the $10,000 budgeted for the expense.

Stephens County resident Jimmy Griffin spoke to the county commissioners about several items of concern, including the condition of county roads, non-service animals in the courthouse and notices about the location of the commissioners meetings. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: Stephens County Judge Michael Roach, left, talks to the County Commissioners, including Eric O’Dell and Will Warren, about the re-establishment of a constitutional county court. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)



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