Gov. Abbott Signs Law to Increase Courtroom Security Measures
WESLACO – A former Rio Grande Valley judge said changes to security efforts in the courtrooms were long overdue.
The shooting of an Austin judge three years ago prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to sign Saturday a new law requiring more security for judges and staff.
The Senate Bill 42 bill will help increase security measures in and outside of every courtroom, no matter the size.
Former Weslaco municipal court judge Carlos Garza said his life was placed on the line many times in the form of death threats.
“Essentially, the interpretation of it, he called my staff names and then, ‘I’m going to kill Judge Garza. I’m gonna kill him,’” he said.
Garza said the new bill will create court security committees to help provide the necessary protection when reporting threats.
The bill also states new training will be required for all law enforcement.
Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra said they’ve already been preparing to send deputies to get certified.
“There’s also a fund that they’re going to set up where we can get some funds for the people that are there to get some training in court security. We don’t have anybody at this time,” he said.
Guerra said deputies must have the training within the year after being assigned to a courtroom. He added deputies will be required to attend the training every year.
“Out of my academy, we’ll send an instructor, maybe two, to what’s called train the trainer course and they’ll become instructors, and they’ll come back and teach it here in the academy,” he explained.
The sheriff pointed out they are waiting for the curriculum to be sent out.
Garza said judges will continue protecting themselves in the tribunals.
“Most judges carry guns. I carry my own gun. I’m licensed to carry. I’ve been carrying one for the last 10 years and sometimes I take it into the courtroom. Sometimes I don’t. I surely took it in when my life was threatened at that point,” he said.
The court security bill goes into effect September 1.
Guerra added a new $5 fee will be charged to anyone involved in a civil case. The fee will go towards funding the training for law enforcement.