Collin County Judges Say More District Courts Needed

366th Circuit Court Judge Tom Novak said the Collin County court system “boasts a Supreme Court” and is one of only two Texas counties with “virtually” no backlogs in county courts. But he said the county needs more county court judges to meet the needs of the growing county.

“We will need to expand,” Novak said. “It’s just a fact of life, and the fact that people are moving to Collin County.”

The county’s population exceeded one million in 2021, according to the US Census. There are currently 13 district court judges serving this population, as well as one part-time judge. Novak said the Office of Judicial Administration estimates that there should be at least three more full-time circuit court judges in the county.

The Texas Legislature meets every two years. Novak said it would be too late to wait until the next legislative session to ask for more courts.

“By the time we have another opportunity to add courts, we will have added a city the size of McKinney to the entire population of the county,” he said.

County commissioners say they want to lighten judges’ workload but are concerned about taxpayer costs — the state helps fund county courts, but the county tends to supplement a judge’s salary and cover operating expenses. Panelists asked district court judges at a district court seminar about other options for alleviating the burden on the courts, including adding an auxiliary court with a rotation of state-paid visiting judges.

But 416th District Court Judge Andrea Thompson said the courts had already exhausted alternative options.

“The reason you can see the effectiveness of our work is that we have already taken every opportunity to lighten the load where possible,” Thompson said.

Any advice? Email Caroline Love at [email protected]

Caroline Love is a member of the Report For America Corps for KERA News.

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