Image: Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the Judge Julie Kocurek Courthouse and Judicial Security Act into law on May 27, 2017, with Judge Kocurek (standing immediately to the left of the Governor in white shirt with dark jacket) joining the ceremony. The Kocurek Act encouraged counties to establish Courthouse Security Committees to improve security inside County Courthouses.
Conroe, July 11 – A letter, which 410th District Judge Jennifer Robin wrote on behalf of the newly-created Montgomery County Court Security Committee (CSS), has raised major issues concerning the degree to which government financial restraint limit Courthouse security measures. In the June 28, 2018, letter, which The Golden Hammer obtained through two sources who have requested anonymity, Judge Robin explained some of the findings of the CSS and requested that the Montgomery County Commissioners Court consider take several actions to increase Courthouse security that would be quite costly to the taxpayers of this community.
The Commissioners Court created the CSS pursuant to the Judge Julie Kocurek Courthouse and Judicial Security Act, which Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on May 27, 2017. The Texas Legislature passed the statute in response to the shooting of 390th District Judge Julie Kocurek of Travis County on November 6, 2015.
The Kocurek Act dealt with security measures at county courthouses in Texas. The irony is that a gunman shot Kocurek in the driveway of her home in Austin rather than at the Travis County Courthouse.
The CSS in Montgomery County consists of Robin, who is the Local Adminstrative Judge for the District Judges; 359th District Judge Kathleen Hamilton; 9th District Judge Phil Grant; Montgomery County Attorney J.D. Lambright; Sheriff’s Office Captain Damon Hall, who directs the Sheriff’s Homeland Security Division; Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace G. Trey Spikes; Darren Hess, the County Director of Emergency Management; Nathan Jensen, Director, Office of Court Administration; Sheriff’s Lieutenant Roland Henrici; Sheriff’s Deputy Mari Lambrecht; Assistant County Attorney Christopher Smith; IT Deputy Director Bobby Powell; and profligate spending lame duck County Judge Craig Doyal.
In the letter, Robin and the CSS recommended that the County Commissioners Court approve and pay for a number of security measures.
Robin wrote, “The Committee acknowledges that cumulatively these requests may seem costly at first glance. However, the Committee reminds this Honorable Commissioners Court that the cost of human lives is far greater than the cost of these modifications, and that failing to make these recommended changes exposes this county to millions of dollars in potential liability in the event of an otherwise preventable attack.
Montgomery County Sheriff Rand Henderson took a slightly different approach when he spoke with The Golden Hammer yesterday afternoon about the contents of the CSS proposal. “MCSO had extensive participation with the committee and we performed a risk vulnerability assessment and a crime prevention assessment,” Henderson said. “The recommendations are solid, but some may be cost prohibitive or longer term goals.”
Henderson discussed the Citizens Budget Committee report, a draft of which began to circulate yesterday. “As was recommended by the CBC, I would explore arming the security guards as a more cost effective measure than commissioned deputies holding post at each entrance. I look forward to feedback from the Commissioners Court at budget hearings on their priorities for law enforcement staffing,” the Sheriff said.
Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack told this newspaper that he was uncomfortable with Judge Robin’s decision to circulate the letter outside of an executive session of the Commissioners Court. “I’m very concerned that this letter provides a roadmap to someone who would want to attack our Courthouse. The letter also raises potential liability issues,” Noack explained.
With the failure of the Montgomery County Commissioners Court to control government spending, minimize waste, and increase efficiency, the County government now faces a significant shortfall of funds with all of the spending proposals coming from many County Departments. An expensive new proposal, such as that of the CSS, regardless of how thoughtful the CSS report is, will present particular challenges to this Commissioners Court that has shown no ability to say “no” even to the most outrageous spending proposals in the past.