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Rep. Schaefer proposes addition of judicial district in Smith Co. with new bill

Republican Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer files House Bill 3822, proposing the creation of an additional judicial district composed of Smith County.
Updated: Mar. 17, 2021 at 8:49 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - A new bill filed by Republican Texas State Representative Matt Schaefer could change how long people have to wait for trials in Smith County.

According to Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran, about 700 people charged with felonies are sitting in the Smith County Jail awaiting trial.

“The real need is the felony criminal caseload, and to work through those case loads to make sure that criminal defendants -those that are charged with a crime at the felony level - have a quick and efficient and effective trial so that they can either begin serving their sentence at the state prison, or they can be found not guilty and get on with their lives,” says Moran.

It’s a need he hopes can be met by the passing of House Bill 3822, which calls for an additional judicial district composed of Smith County.

“‘Here in Smith County we have four current district courts; three of those are felony criminal courts, one is dedicated to family law matters,” says Moran. “Those three felony district courts are very important to the process of law and order here in Smith County because they’re the only ones that can process felony criminal defendants, and that’s where the logjam is.”

Moran says COVID-19 has caused a backlog in cases but that the need for an additional court was present before the pandemic. Smith County has not had a new district court since 1977. According to Moran, the population of Smith County in 1977 was 100,000. He says it is now nearly 240,000, which means that there is “a definite need for a new district court.”

House Bill 3822 would add the 475th judicial district court in Smith County, and Moran says it would benefit all Smith County residents.

“No matter where you are in the county, if there’s a crime that’s committed that goes through our judicial system, it’s the base of what we do,” say Moran. “And so we need to be doing that efficiently and effectively for the citizens in Smith County. We need to hold those criminals accountable that have committed a crime. We also need to let those go that are ultimately found not guilty. And so it’s important on both ends to have an effective and efficient judicial system.”

Judge Moran says the passing of House Bill 3822 would reaffirm the long-term need of a new courthouse in Smith County. He says the bill will be discussed at commissioner’s court next week.

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