Henderson County Mapping Mistake May Eliminate JP Post

A mix up in precinct lines in Henderson County may mean many court cases will be thrown out. For a county justice of the peace, whether his job even exists is still up in the air.

A computer glitch caused Precinct 6 to disappear when district lines were drawn four years ago... but the fact wasn't discovered until just a few weeks ago.  County commissioners who met Friday still have their hands tied, until lawyers come up with a solution.

Henderson County Commissioner Ronny Lawrence: "Most of [citizens] think it's kind of a joke. They think it didn't happen, but it did happen. And we need to get it solved right away."

How could a map have gone so wrong?

It does sound like a joke, but for the office of Justice of the Peace Precinct 6, offices are closed, and Commissioner Lawrence says it'll stay that way for now.

"I know computers don't make mistakes, but apparently the computer colored the map wrong," he says.

The map came from the Austin law firm of Allison, Bass, and Associates, which submitted a large binder of plans to commissioners and the U.S. Department of Justice.

"They acted strictly on the opinion of a knowledgeable experienced law firm," says County Judge David Holstein. Commissioner Lawrence and Holstein were not in office when the plan was approved in 2000 -- approved without anyone noticing Precinct 6 and the position of Judge Milton Adams was just gone.

Lawrence: "They approved it with no knowledge or even asking any questions about why we would change it."

Justice of the Peace Adams didn't want to appear on camera, but told KLTV that his judicial canon require he "avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety." So his office has been shut down for over a week.

Now, many court cases since the change may have to be reviewed.

Judge Holstein says he wants "to feel comfortable to file cases in a court that has a solid enough foundation that it can never be challenged."

It's hoped a solution can be passed quickly through the Department of Justice and the County, and perhaps made retroactive.

Commissioner Lawrence had hoped this issue would be resolved by Friday. However, the Justice Department, the state Attorney General, and the Henderson County Attorney will all have to be on the same page... or the same map, before the situation is resolved.

The Austin law firm that produced the map has publicly taken responsibility for the mistake.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.