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Collin County judges say more district courts are needed

A framed American flag hangs above the courtroom at the Collin County Courthouse.
Azul Sordo
Collin County district court judges want the Texas Legislature to add two more courts.

District court judges in Collin County want two more courts to meet growing demands. And they've asked county commissioners to push for that with the Texas Legislature.

366th District Court Judge Tom Nowak said Collin County’s judicial system is “lauded by the Supreme Court” and one of the two counties in Texas that "basically" doesn't have a district court backlog. But he said the county needs more district court judges to meet the needs of the growing county.

“We’re going to need to expand,” Nowak said. “That's just a fact of life, and the fact that people are moving into Collin County.”

The county’s population reached over a million people in 2021 according to the U.S. Census. Right now, there’s 13 district court judges, plus one part-time judge, serving that population. Nowak said the Office of Court Administration estimates the county should have at least three more full-time district court judges.

The Texas Legislature meets every two years. Nowak said waiting until the next legislative session to ask for more courts would be too late.

“By the time we get another opportunity add courts, we will have added a city the size of McKinney to the entire county population,” he said.

The county commissioners say they want to lighten the judges’ workloads but are concerned about the cost to taxpayers — the state helps fund district courts, but the county typically supplements the judge’s salary and covers operating costs. Commissioners asked district court judges at a county judicial workshop about other options for easing the courts’ burden, including adding an auxiliary court with a rotation of visiting judges, whose are paid for by the state.

But 416th District Court Judge Andrea Thompson said the courts have already exhausted alternative options.

“The reason you can see the efficiencies that we have in the work we do is because we have already taken every opportunity we can to lighten the load in the places that we can,” Thompson said.

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Caroline Love is a Report For Americacorps member for KERA News.

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Caroline Love covers Collin County for KERA and is a member of the Report for America corps. Previously, Caroline covered daily news at Houston Public Media. She has a master's degree from Northwestern University with an emphasis on investigative social justice journalism. During grad school, she reported three feature stories for KERA. She also has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and interned with KERA's Think in 2019.