Senate Jurisprudence Committee Convenes For The 77th Interim
The Senate Jurisprudence Committee met for the first time during the 77th Interim today, Monday, November 5, 2001. This interim will closely examine how juveniles are treated in the Texas justice system in five specific areas:
Charge #1 orders the committee to study how uniformly and consistently juvenile cases are handled. Dr. Tony Fabelo, Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Policy Council, was the first witness, reporting that since reforms were passed in 1995 referrals are down in the juvenile system. He said the point of the 1995 reforms was to have a more equal application of the law to juveniles across Texas. Ms. Vicki Spriggs of the Texas Juvenile Probation Council followed, saying that the 1995 reforms made the juvenile detention system an effective deterrent.
Charge #2 orders the committee to study the judicial system's revenue structure and make recommendations for collection and dispersal of funds. Mary Hawkins and Ron Dietz of the State Comptroller's office testified.
Charge #3 orders the committee to study judicial districts and how their boundaries need to be adjusted. Chief Justice Tom Phillips of the Texas Supreme Court said that the Legislature had created several overlapping districts, many of which could be eliminated. Other issues include reworking the county court system, perhaps merging it with the district courts.
Charge #4 orders the committee to make changes to the state's trial court system to make it more efficient. Chief Justice Phillips testified here as well.
Charge #5 orders the committee to monitor the implementation of Senate Bill 1074, which passed during the 77th Legislature, regarding the elimination of racial profiling by Texas law enforcement agencies. Mr. Randy Ellison from the Department of Public Safety testified, reporting that law enforcement agencies are in the process of purchasing the camera equipment necessary for documenting traffic stops.
The Senate Jurisprudence Committee is chaired by Senator Royce West of Dallas, the Vice-Chair is Senator David Bernsen of Beaumont. Members include Senators J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson, Robert Duncan of Lubbock, Rodney Ellis of Houston, Mike Jackson of LaPorte, and Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio. The committee recessed subject to the call of the chair with it's next meeting time to be announced at a later date.