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2013-09-12

Open house for new DA, district judge

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

The Bandera community is invited to meet 198th Judicial District Judge Melvin "Rex" Emerson and District Attorney Scott Monroe and their staff on Monday, Sept. 16. Hosted by local attorneys John and Cindy Payne, the open house will be held from 2 pm to 4 pm in Courtroom B at the Bandera County Jail and Justice Center on Highway 173 North.

In an interview on Friday, Sept. 6, John Payne, former county attorney, noted, "Bandera County's return to the 198th Judicial District is one of those 'good news-bad news' stories - except, in our case it is 'good news-good news-bad news.' The bad news is that we are losing Judge Keith Williams and DA Bruce Curry and his staff. Working with them has been a pleasure for me ever since Cindy and I moved to Bandera 10 years ago."
Payne continued, "The good news is that we are welcoming Judge Rex Emerson and District Attorney Scott Monroe, good men of great integrity and consummate professionals. I have also known both for about 10 years and know they will do a good job for our county." Payne added that other good news is that Becky Henderson and her experienced staff will continue assisting the court since she handles both the 216th and 198th districts.

Effective Sept. 1, Bandera County was reassigned from the 216th Judicial District to the 198th Judicial District, which also includes a portion of Kerr County.

The 216th Judicial District is now comprised of Comal, Gillespie and Kendall counties and a portion of Kerr County.

The redistricting came about when Gov. Rick Perry signed into law an Omnibus Bill that included not only local redistricting, such as this one, but also other judicial changes, including the creation of county courts at law and matters relating to Travis and other urban counties.

When SB 1111, sponsored by State Senator Robert Duncan of Lubbock, and HB 3381, filed by District 53 State Representative Harvey Hilderbran, were included in the Omnibus Bill, Bandera County Judge Richard Evans opined that the more inclusive bill had a better change of being enacted into law. His prediction proved correct when Perry signed CSHB 3153 - aka the Omnibus Bill.

Not only did the legislation move Bandera County into the 198th Judicial District, it also created the 452nd Judicial District for Edwards, Kimble, McCulloch, Mason and Menard counties - previously included in the 198th District. Duncan represents the rural counties also involved in the realignment.

"The efforts from the last three or four legislative sessions have finally come to fruition," Evans said in a recent interview. "We need judicial relief in this area. Now that there are only two counties in the district, it will surely be easier than when there were seven. We'll have more time to move the dockets and the jail population, too."

According to Evans, Williams had carried the highest caseload of any district judge in Texas, enabling district court to convene in Bandera County just once a month. "Once we become a part of the 198th, we'll get twice as much attention from the DA and judge," Evans said, noting that district court would be held twice a month.

When speaking earlier about added costs to county taxpayers, Evans said he anticipated the costs to be "minimal and affordable" as compared to the benefits.

With regard to that portion of Kerr County included in the 198th District, according to Henderson, district court coordinator, when civil and criminal cases are filed in Kerr County, the cases are distributed to either the 216th or 198th judicial districts on a rotating basis. Kerr County is not divided geographically.