Abbott signs law adding district court seat to Smith County

Smith County
Smith County(Smith County)
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 12:01 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - It’s been more than forty years since a new district court has been added in Smith County. That will change when a new district court will be added to Smith County on Jan, 1, 2023.

This comes after House Bill 3774 was signed into law on Friday by Governor Greg Abbott. Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran says they are looking forward to the added court.

“We have not added a new district court here since 1977. Back then, the population of Smith County was about 100 thousand, now it’s about 230 thousand,” he said. “As population grows, so does its need for administration of law and order.”

Right now, about six to seven hundred people charged with felonies are sitting in the Smith County Jail awaiting trial, according to Moran.

“We needed to add another district court in order to process the growing number of felonies in our county in order to make sure people don’t stay too long in our jail system,” Moran said. “They get adjudicated and either go home if they’re found not guilty, or move on to the prison system if they are found guilty.”

Representative Matt Schaefer initially authored the bill and the next steps include, “The county commissioners will make arrangements for there to be a new space for that court and for the maintenance and operation of that court to be funded,” Schaefer said. “The state of Texas will pay for the salaries of the court staff and the judge.”

Governor Abbott will then work with a team of people to appoint the new district judge, Moran said, until November of 2024 when citizens will elect a judge to sit in the seat.

“They look at the qualifications, they talk to members of the community and they really look to make sure that a highly qualified person will be selected by Governor Abbott to fill that position,” Schaeder said.

Judge Moran said the timing of this court worked out well and he hopes it can help with some of the COVID-19 back log they’re facing.

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