New judges arrive to find disorder in Dallas court

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on January 4, 2011 at 10:55 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 4 at 11:38 PM

DALLAS — Some Dallas County courtrooms had to be shut down on Tuesday because several new judges didn't have the furniture needed to do their jobs.

The disorder in the court has one county commissioner demanding answers.

Justice of the Peace Carlos Medrano showed up for his first day at work expecting to hear cases. But Medrano had nowhere to sit or hold court.

"There was no furniture at all — just boxes," he said.

The newly sworn-in JP took pictures of the mess. Furniture, clocks and forms needed to conduct business were all gone.

It forced Medrano to cancel court on Tuesday.

"We got here and the docket was full. We had maybe six or seven trials we had to hear, and there is no way we can get that in," he said. "So we are moving the docket."

But Medrano wasn't alone.

"This last transition was the most horrid I've ever seen," said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. "We have several judges with no furniture."

One of the judges who had one of those offices for 10 years until last Saturday is former Justice of the Peace Luis Sepulveda.

"When I saw it, it was very clean. The courtroom was clean," he said. "Everything was moved out and out of the way."

Sepulveda said he took his office furniture because he paid for it out of his own pocket.

That seems to happen a lot.

Dallas County Commissioners say they really don't know for sure about any furniture in county offices.

"We can't tell if it's their furniture. It may have gone to surplus. We have to tighten this up," Price said. "This is about productivity and us keeping a tight reign on what's going on."

County leaders want a policy for keeping track of furniture. But that could take time.

"We are just going to do what we have to do and work with what we have and go from there and move on," Medrano said.

Dallas County only has one person in charge of inventory. That probably won't change with the current budget.

But Judge Medrano and the Commissioners hope accountability will help.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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