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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 30 years."


 

Justice grinds it out.....When a certain county attorney--Bud Childers--decided to run for county court-at-law judge, I warned him that I would be checking to see if he was really working. You see, when he was county attorney, I heard persistent rumors that he was hardly ever there.

Since the county courts are so active and have many more cases than the district courts, we just couldnít afford a county court-at-law judge who doesnít work and keep up his end of the docket.

The information about how many cases are filed and how many are disposed of is readily available in the myriad of paperwork and filings that courts all across Texas have to make.

So I decided about a month ago to check on all our county court-at-law judges to see how their work load was progressing.

You see, all the judges are supposed to be assigned cases on a rotating basis and each judge gets about the same number of cases assigned each month, more or less.

So here is what I found for 2007. I know, I know, itís now on the downside of 2008, but the information is so detailed that I thought you wouldnít want it all at once. Iím starting out with 2007 because that is the last year for which we have complete records, and we still have the same judges now as we did then: Bud Childers, Susan Lowery, Walter McMeans, and Sandy Bielstein.

Here are the figures. You can get some idea for yourself who works the hardest.

Judge Childers started the year with 966 civil cases. He had 883 civil cases added during the year. He disposed either by default judgement, agreed judgements, judgement after a trial with no jury, judging with a jury, dismissing for want of prosecution or by plaintiff, or ďotherĒ of a total of 497 civil cases. He ended the year with 1,152 civil cases pending, which means he ended the year with 386 more civil cases than he started with.

Of the criminal cases, he stated the year with 1,965 criminal cases, but had 23 removed to adjust his docket. There were 1,796 criminal cases that reached his docket sometime during the year. He disposed of 1,736 cases by various means, leaving him 2002 criminal cases at the end of the year. This mean he ended the year with 60 more cases than he started with. This totals 436 both criminal and civil cases left pending for the whole year.

By the way, he had a total of 12 jury trials, which can be the most time-consuming of all cases.

To recap:

Pending cases at the beginning of 2007--2,718

Cases added during year--2,679

Dispositions--2,233 (includes 451 dismissals)

Ended year with--3,154 total cases

Net gain of--436 cases left pending.

He had 1,114 probate hearings; 163 juvenile cases at the beginning of the year and had 180 new petitions filed. He disposed of 199 of those and ended the year with 149 juvenile cases still pending, leaving him at 14 fewer cases on his juveniles docket at the end of the year than when he started.

Letís look at Judge McMeans:

Pending cases at the beginning of 2007--3,078

Cases added during year--2,715

Dispositions--2,149 (Includes 513 dismissals)

Ended year with--3,627 cases pending

Net gain--549 cases over the previous year

He had 1397 probate hearings; 179 juvenile cases at the beginning of the year and 176 new petitions filed. He disposed of 211 of those and ended the year with 144 juvenile cases still pending, leaving him at 35 fewer cases on his docket at the end of the year than when he started.

He had 14 jury trials.

And now Judge Lowery:

Pending at the beginning of 2007 --2,731

Cases added during year--2,583

Dispositions--2,500 (includes 540 dismissals)

Ended year--2,814 cases still on docket

Net gain--83 from previous year.

She had 848 probate hearings; 152 juvenile cases at the beginning of the year and 191 new petitions filed during the year. She disposed of 209 of those and ended the year with 134 still pending, leaving her at 18 fewer cases on her docket at the end of the year than when she started.

She had 9 jury trials

Finally, Judge Bielstein:

Cases pending at the beginning of 2007--3,757

Cases added during year--2797

Dispositions--2,091 (includes 418 dismissals)

Ended year with pending cases--4,463

Net gain of 706 more cases than the year before

He had 1,186 probate hearings; 150 juvenile cases at the beginning of the year and 182 new petitions filed. He disposed of 180 of those and ended the year with 152 still pending, leaving him at 2 more cases on his docket at the end of the year than when he started.

He had 11 jury trials

I donít know all the ins and outs of the justice system and what decisions each judge can make that affects his/her docket. However, a few things do stand out. Judge Lowery (the only woman on the bench in Fort Bend except for an assistant family law judge) seems to manage her docket the best. She dismisses more cases, but maybe the other judges should as well.

She has fewer probate hearings and for that I donít know the reason except that some judges call it a hearing when they even look at a piece of probate paper. Perhaps, and Iím only guessing here, Lowery doesnít call it a hearing unless she gavels the court to order.

My 2007 analysis didnít show that Judge Childers works any less than the other judges, but it does show that Lowery is far and away the best manager. Judge Bielstein had the largest gain of pending cases, followed by Judge McMeans.

I hate to ďjudge the judgesĒ because there are so many things that factor in, but.....

Hum, maybe Iíll take a look at our District Judges next.

 

Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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