New legislation allows Bill Harris to share case loads with Eric Clifford, Will Biard

Lamar County Court at Law Judge Bill Harris

Lamar County Court at Law Judge Bill Harris

When Bill Harris ran for judge of the Lamar County Court at Law (CCL) three years ago, he campaigned on making the court more efficient and increasing its jurisdiction at no additional expense to taxpayers.

Going into effect today is legislation that does exactly that.

Gov. Rick Perry on June 14 signed into law, effective Sept. 1, House Bill 3153, which introduces changes that apply only to the Lamar County Court at Law.

First and foremost, the bill permits Harris and the county’s two state district court judges to exchange benches and sit for each other in any matter pending before either court.

“Among other things, this will allow the CCL to hear an increased variety of cases – including felony jury trials, bench trials and probation revocation matters, and including both civil and criminal cases,” Harris said.

“This will provide another court to handle criminal cases, which will assist in keeping the jail population down and give prosecutors, defendants and crime victims another venue to resolve cases,” he said.

The bill also allows Harris and State District Court Judges Eric Clifford (6th State District Court) and Will Biard  (62nd State District Court) to share jury panels.

“In other words, if a jury panel is called for a district court but all cases set for trial that day settle, my court can take that panel to try additional cases.  Thusly, the panel won’t be ‘wasted,’ “ Harris said.

Other, somewhat technical changes to the CCL statute address fees, clerk duties and juvenile jurisdiction.

“This legislation was three years in the making and required the assistance of numerous individuals,” Harris said.

Harris said he recognizes and deeply appreciates the direct personal assistance of the following:

  • State Rep. George Lavender of Texarkana
  • District Judges Eric Clifford and Will Biard 
  • County Attorney Gary Young
  • Commissioners Rodney Pollard and Keith Mitchell
  • District Clerk Marvin Ann Patterson
  • Paris Mayor AJ Hashmi, and
  • Lamar County Sheriff Scott Cass.

Also providing important letters of support, Harris said, were:

  • Justices of the Peace Cindy Ruthart, Gene Hobbs, Ken Ruthart, Don Denison and Tim Risinger
  • Constables Vance Boehler, Larry Cope, Rick Easterwood and Jimmy Hodges
  • Lamar County Chief Deputy Jeff Springer 
  • Paris Police Chief Bob Hundley
  • Reno Police Chief Matt Birch
  • Reno Mayor Buddy Heuberger

Harris extended special thanks to former State Rep. Mark Homer of Paris for providing “invaluable assistance” in moving the legislation through the Texas House of Representatives.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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About the Author

Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.