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Why can't Dallas County judges clear more cases? Millions of dollars are at stake.

The problem -- judges not clearing enough cases on their docket in a prompt manner -- is persistent. The issue is also growing, and it's happening statewide.
Credit: KTVB
Gavel

DALLAS — Tens of thousands of criminal cases are backing up in courtrooms all across Texas

In Dallas County, commissioners say they’re at the point of crisis due to the backlog. 

And they’re blaming judges.  

Veteran and award-winning WFAA reporter Rebecca Lopez has been following this issue for years, and she recently reported the backlog is about to cost Dallas County tens of millions of dollars. She also this week joined the Jasons on the most recent episode of Y’all-itics for an in-depth and enlightening conversation about the problem -- and what’s being done to fix it.

It all boils down to this: The state of Texas requires that counties clear 90 percent of their dockets by August 1 every year for five years in a row or risk losing a $50 Million grant. 

But Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price says that, if you average out the productivity of all 17 felony criminal judges in Dallas County, they’re only holding around 12 trials a year. Historically, Price says, they’ve averaged more than 24 a year.

As Rebecca pointed out to the Jasons, every one of the thousands of unadjudicated cases represents a victim in limbo -- so a lot is at stake.  

Other counties have thrown money at the problem in the past. Last summer, for example, Harris County Commissioners unanimously approved $2.5 million to hire three visiting judges and their staffs to help alleviate the massive court backlog in that county.  

Listen to this episode of Y’all-itics to find out what else Rebecca's learned about this problem in other parts of the state, and what she means when she says that Dallas County Commissioners are so frustrated they are about to start naming names in an effort to "motivate" the judges to clear more cases.