Courthouse security changes in Texas

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After the attempted murder of Travis County District Judge Julie Kocurek, a law was passed and named after her.

SB 42, better known as the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act of 2017, is meant to protect the 4,000 Texas judges in the courthouse and in their homes. It also led to the creation of the state’s first court security director, filled by Hector Gomez.

Gomez recently retired after 31 years with the U.S. Marshall’s Office to take on this new challenge. In a one-on-one conversation with KXAN’s Sally Hernandez, Gomez answers questions about his new role and what he’s doing to make sure what happened to Kocurek doesn’t happen again.

Hernandez: Tell us how many courthouses you’ve visited since you’ve been in this position for how long?

Gomez: I’ve been in this position for close to 120 days, about four months. I spend most of my time traveling and messaging. But as far as courthouses, I would say I have about a half-dozen under my belt.

Hernandez: What are you looking for?

Gomez: We are looking at security vulnerabilities. We are looking at three areas that are the hallmark of court security — that is to keep the judiciary, the employees and the public safe. There is an expectation we should all be safe in our courthouses.

Hernandez: When I was talking to Judge Kocurek after the attack, she told me she wasn’t warned someone on her docket was threatening to harm her and she wished she would have known. How are you going to do to improve communication in the system?

Gomez: Getting the word out to these law enforcement entities that you do bear that responsibility, that you do bear not only recording those incidents but providing the presiding judge of that courthouse with a notice and copy of that report.

Hernandez: This new reporting system, is it working so far?

Gomez: I can tell you, having been on this job for 120 days that the reporting percentage has exceeded this time last year with an increase over a 175 percent. A marked increase in reportable incidents.

Since the new law passed, there have been some other changes as well:

  • It allows judges and their spouses to keep their home address private from public records.
  • It requires each county to form a courthouse security committee.
  • It mandates court security officials to go through training.

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