I checked out the Interim Report of the Task Force to Ensure Judicial Readiness in Times of Emergency. Basically, it calls for counties to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Supreme Court of Texas. If you sign up, you promise to provide facilities for nearby counties when they’re out of commission. In return, you’ll be paid rent, and you’ll have the comfort of knowing that other signatory counties will house your courts if the need arises. But don’t sign up unless you mean it. When the time comes, the decision won’t rest in the hands of your county officials. Instead, a judicial authority will come knocking with the MOU in hand saying: “We’re here!”
Here’s a key part of the thirteen page report:
In the event that the Supreme Court or the presiding judge of the _________ Administrative Judicial Region designate in writing that the assistance of __________ County is required to ensure the continued operation of the courts in a designated county, or assistance is requested by any Local Administrative Judge __________ County agrees to provide the following to enable the Appellate, District, Statutory, and Constitutional County Courts of designated county to continue court operations:
A. adequate facilities for court sessions;
B. adequate office space for judges and essential administrative staff, including essential county and district clerk staff; and
C. adequate telecommunication and information management tools necessary for the judges and essential administrative staff to conduct court business.
_________________ County agrees to provide assistance within 24 hours of notice of a designated county requiring its assistance.___________ County agrees to provide assistance under this MOU without any further contractual requirements for a period of up to seven working days. If it is anticipated that assistance will be required beyond seven working days, _____________ County and designated county will negotiate an interlocal agreement for the additional support.
The plan sounds reasonable enough. But here in Smith County, the debate is over whether we have enough room for our own courts. If the judges, clerks and bailiffs from some other county came knocking, I don’t know where we’d put them. I sure would like to know how many counties have signed up for this plan.