NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Dallas Council Members At Odds Over Municipal Judges – Again

City of Dallas

A city of Dallas budget proposal to add two full-time municipal court judges sparked accusations of cronyism at City Hall, and comes after the dismissal of several judges that upset minority council members.

City Council member Angela Hunt said a last-minute budget-item for two additional full-time judges has nothing to do with efficiency at the courthouse.  She called it a political solution to the recent ouster of five municipal judges as part of a move to improve the city court-system.  

“It’s not right to hand out full-time positions to well-connected attorneys; write them into the budget; create a position in the budget for these attorneys; who I would remind everyone have sued the city of Dallas,” Hunt said.

The two people named to the new judge positions are Tim Gonzalez and Cheryl Williams, two of the five removed from the municipal court bench.  

Council member Vonciel Jones Hill said Hunt’s claim -- that the budget proposal was to ensure that people some council members want to serve as judges can do so -- was "insulting."

“I take serious umbrage at folks saying these are my friends,” Hill said. “These are good judges.  They are people who know what they’re doing. They have experience.”

Hill, a former municipal judge herself, says the city should have increased the number of judges a long time ago to better handle the work load.  

The new judge positions passed on an 8-7 non-binding vote.  Mayor Mike Rawlings was the deciding “yes” vote.  And he acknowledged the politics of the situation.

“It always seems to be about politics.  It is. This is a political body and that’s what we do. And I’ve taken ownership of that,” Rawlings said.

The mayor said compromise is not a bad word. 

The final say on the new judges comes next week when the City Council approves the budget for next year.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.