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Local Domestic Issues in Tarrant County & the Lincoln Day Dinner

I live in Tarrant County, Texas, which is just west of the larger, better known, County of Dallas.  I grew up in Tarrant County and returned after law school in DC simply because my mother was so in love with the place that she would not even consider having her ashes brought to any other part of the world.

After more years than I care to admit, I really do like Tarrant County.

Tonight I plan to attend the Tarrant County Lincoln Day Dinner.  It will be a great opportunity for many to dress up and mingle with local, state, and national politicians.  The Tarrant County Republican party is very active and filled with warm devoted people.  But, I wonder how much the members really know about local political matters at this point in our history.

So much time is often devoted to criticizing some new perceived fiasco in Washington DC, or “there they go again” scandal in Dallas Count ,  which makes me believe that many of my fellow Republicans in Tarrant County may not be focusing as much attention on local matters of concern.

For example, the sexual harassment allegations against the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office just cost the taxpayers of Tarrant County $370,000.00.  However, according to published news reports, it took nearly four (4) months, and the weight of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, for the taxpayers of Tarrant County to learn that the person accused of the sexual harassment was in fact the elected district Attorney Joe Shannon, Jr. and not a mere employee of the District Attorney’s Office.

Another point that many in Tarrant County may not be readily focusing on is the changing demographics of Tarrant County and the strains that this may be putting on our local court systems.

According to the US Census Bureau, the population in Tarrant County increased by over 38% between the fiscal year 2000 Census and the 2010 Census.  The US Census currently estimates the 2012 population in Tarrant County to be approximately 1.8 million residents.

Since I do like “hurt people,” “sad people,” or “bad people,” I have spent very little time in any of the Tarrant County Courts.  In fact, prior to my pending divorce and the pending assault case against a soon to be ex family member, my only dealings with the Tarrant County Court system was a small case in which I represent actress Bo Derek.

Since my life has taken a dramatic turn and I have found myself submerged in both the inner working of both the criminal courts and the family courts in Tarrant County, I have found myself simply mesmerized! Some quick facts regarding the Tarrant County Family Law Center, which was opened in 2005 to provide a “one stop shop” for divorce, child custody, child support, domestic assault, and just about any other matter that would fall under family law issues:

  • There are six (6) family law courts in Tarrant County
  • Each court has a docket of approximately 2,200 active cases at any time
  • Roughly 1,500 family litigants are pro se, and do not have a lawyer representing them
  • 372 new or reactivated cases are filed each month by each of the six courts
  • 393 cases are disposed of each month by each of the six courts

— Christie Loveless (May 2012), EVALUATING PRO SE LITIGATION AT THE TARRANT COUNTY FAMILY LAW CENTER, Institute for Court Management ICM Fellows Program

According to Loveless study, mentioned above, a major debate rages in Tarrant County between three (3) distinct groups, namely the Judges, the Family Law Center Staff, and local lawyers, regarding the creation of a “self-help center” to assist the roughly sixty-eight percent (68%) of the residents who use the taxpayer funded Tarrant County Family Law Center without the assistance of a lawyer.

I am remarkably surprised that a debate that ultimately concerns the effective use of taxpayer money is not centered around the wants and desires of the taxpayers.  After all, judges are elected by the residents of Tarrant County and the Family Law Center Staff are paid by the tax dollars of the county residents.

While the local issues in Tarrant County politics may not be as interesting to many as the ongoing political sagas played out in news stories surrounding the neighboring Dallas County, Tarrant County does have problems.

While the Mayor of Dallas, the largest city in Dallas County, makes an impassioned public plea to end a “culture of male violence,” due to a recent rise in the number of assaults against women, most in Tarrant County seem to be silent on domestic issues.

However, according to a 2011 report released by SafeHaven of Tarrant County, the “culture of male violence” in Tarrant County is not that significantly different than in Dallas County, where there were eighteen (18) domestic homicides compared to twelve (12) in Tarrant Count during calendar year 2010.

So as I try to decide which shoes to wear with my fabulous dress for tonight’s Tarrant County Lincoln Day Dinner, I wonder if anyone there will be discussing local domestic issues.

I do find it odd that the branch of the county that is ultimately responsible for prosecuting the criminal offenses involving  domestic matters is plagued with a sort of “domestic” scandal, while the branch of the county that is responsible for resolving the civil issues involving domestic matters is bitterly overwhelmed by the sheer number of residents coming into its doors each month, the majority of whom appear without a lawyer.

Oh well, I just decided to wear my three-inch high heels , as I  get ready to enjoy a night filled with the wonderful people from Tarrant County making some very pertinent and amusing comments about Washington fiscal follies and Dallas County shenanigans!

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