The Eagle’s Q&A: My Response to the District Clerk’s Race

Endorsed by THE EAGLE

I am 59 years old, and I am an attorney.  I am licensed to practice in all state courts in Texas and in the federal courts of the Southern, Eastern, and Northern Districts of Texas.  I have been practicing law, handling complex civil and criminal litigation in Brazos County and across Texas since 1989. I am a founding partner of Meece & Associates, located in Bryan, Texas, since 1993.

If elected, what will be your top three priorities?

  1. First, I will focus on cyber security.  There is already a plan in place to guard against cyber intrusions.  This issue will require constant vigilance to protect the County’s records but also prevent intrusions as new threats develop in the future.  It is my expectation that cyber security will be one of the fastest developing and changing issues the office will face.  E-filing and paperless records management is a great benefit in many ways.
  2. Second, I will work with other offices and entities involved in document management (courts, courts of appeal, administrative personnel, attorneys, other district clerk’s offices, and state agencies) to ensure the document management and preservation process works as efficiently as possible. One such issue is secure online availability of court records to designated attorneys where public access is prohibited, including family, juvenile, and expunctions.  I will review procedures and protocols, consult with others as needed, and streamline the process as much as possible.
  3. Third, I will find a solution to the off-site storage issues facing the District Clerk’s office.  Even with the digital document control changes we face, our courts will never be truly paperless.  The District Clerk’s office is responsible for preserving evidence admitted in trials ad infinitum.  This would include physical items admitted into evidence, DNA, and anything else used in a trial.  Our current storage is nearly full.  A change MUST be made to reduce the ongoing accumulation of paper. Digital data storage is a significant factor in meeting this need.

What motivated you to run for this office?

As our current District Clerk, Marc Hamlin, was making his decision to retire or seek re-election, he sought me out.  He encouraged me to run indicating that he was confident I could meet the demands of the office from day one. I love the challenges of practicing law, and I was concerned about leaving my practice behind.  The District Clerk’s position requires a 24/7 commitment requiring me to give up the practice of law; therefore, after a great deal of thought and conversation with my husband and law partner, I agreed to run.  The challenges facing the District Clerk’s office and our judicial system in the next few years will require the formulation of efficient solutions to the challenges facing our District Clerk’s office.  Ultimately, I determined that serving as District Clerk at this critical time was what I needed to do.

Once e-filing is up and running and the public can access most records (not divorce, juveniles), do you think this is a service that the county should turn into a revenue-producing stream? Why or why not?

E-filing has been available for 10 years.  It has been mandatory in civil cases for five years.  It will be mandatory in criminal cases on July 1, 2018.  (Based on county population census as of 2010). I do not think that courts (and the costs associated with them) should be revenue streams.  We shouldn’t lose money on them, but courts should never be looked to as a source of income.  It should be noted that Brazos County would not benefit from any revenue generated from e-filing.  The State receives the fees from e-filing.

Are there any changes that you think need to be made to the District Clerk’s office? Please be specific.

I am a fan of our District Clerk’s office.  I have worked with many district clerk offices across this state in both state and federal courts.  I have worked with offices that did not accept fax filings as late as last year.  However, our District Clerk’s office has accepted fax filings almost 23 years.  It is my opinion that the Brazos County District Clerk’s office is one of the finest in the state.  I would not anticipate any personnel or other major changes in the office, except as indicated in response to Question 1 above.

In recent years, the district clerk took on additional duties in helping Jury Services with getting potential jurors to show up. Most district clerk’s do not handle such matters.  Is this a good use of a district clerk’s time? Why or why not?

Jury service is a primary function of a district clerk’s office.  The United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution guarantee all people the right to trial by an impartial jury.

The Government Code requires the District Clerk to record the acts and proceedings of courts.[i]  If a jury summons is returned indicating a change of address for the potential juror, the District Clerk is required to update the jury wheel.[ii] The District Clerk is required to keep a list of jurors disqualified because they are not a resident of the County and submit the list to the Voter Registrar monthly.[iii]  The District Clerk is required to give the Secretary of State timely notice of each jury wheel required in Brazos County.[iv]  The District Clerk is one of the few officials charged with reconstituting the jury lists provided to the Secretary of State’s Office.[v] The District Clerk is responsible for certifying the jury lists.[vi]  This is only a partial list of the District Clerk’s statutory duties in relation to jury service.  It is logical that the District Clerk, in charge of Brazos County jury services, would also determine why summoned jurors fail to appear for service.  At a minimum, this would help insure the accuracy of jury lists.  It’s something they are required to do by law.

[i] Tex. Gov’t Code, §51.303.

[ii] Tex. Gov’t Code, §62.0146

[iii] Tex. Gov’t Code, §62.114

[iv] SB 681 (84th Leg.)

[v] Tex. Gov’t Code, §62.001(h)

[vi] Tex. Gov’t Code, §62.006

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