John Jarvis, an attorney running for judge of 321st District Court, said he could “adhere” to the budget, listen to facts and follow the law to render “right decisions” if elected.
Jarvis, a Tyler native whose family roots go back to the 1840s, has practiced law here 17 years and practiced accounting five years before he went to law school and graduated with honors.
In a recent meeting with The Tyler Morning Telegraph’s editorial board, Jarvis said he thinks there is a need for the characteristics and traits that he could bring to the judge’s position.
Jarvis acknowledged he has not handled many child protective custody cases, but said, “I don’t see that as being a hindrance of what I can do (as judge).”
Jarvis said he has experience in family law, probate, criminal and virtually all aspects of the law. He also cited his accounting background and perspective as a parent.
“I’ve handled divorces, modifications, custody, enforcements, terminations, adoption … I think I can make a difference; I think I can help people,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis said he is concerned that the court’s budget has been exceeded by $645,000 in the last five years. There is “definitely a conflict” between the incumbent, Carole Clark, and the commissioner’s court over the budget, Jarvis said.
“I think it’s always better to ask permission than forgiveness instead of spending it and then going to them saying I’ve got to have more money. I need another $350,000 to finish out the year,” Jarvis said.
District courts all over the state somehow manage their budgets, but cost overruns with the budget of the 321st court are a big issue, Jarvis said, accusing the judge of not running the budget correctly.
The budget has more than doubled in four years, going from $680,000 in 2009 to $1.4 million spent in 2013, Jarvis said. “There’s no explanation,” he charged.
The majority of the cost overruns went for court-appointed attorneys for child protective services cases, Jarvis said his research found.
Jarvis maintained that the judge could stick to the budget .
Jarvis contended that with his financial background and discipline, he could meet the budget set by county commissioners.
Jarvis disagreed with the judge’s position that there has been a “tsunami” of cases. He said he does not see in statistical information he obtained from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services such a growth in cases for Smith County, although he said the caseload is “cyclical.”
“What it really appears to me is she is attempting to build a CPS organization in the 321st court and she’s using the excuse of a tsunami of cases to do that,” Jarvis said.
Elaborating, Jarvis rephrased his position. He said the judge could not start a CPS agency in the court, but he thinks by having many attorneys and by being hands-on, she is not letting CPS do its job and she is trying to run how CPS does its job through her court, which causes extra work for attorneys as well as herself.
Jarvis said he sees the court wanting to take an active role in child protective services cases, which he said he thinks is improper.
Jarvis said the judge should give 30 percent of the attorney general cases back to the county court at law, which would give her court some relief, although he said that would not affect her budget.
But the judge’s expenditures for other attorneys have grown “way too much,” Jarvis said.
A lot of the budget overflow came from her paying hourly attorneys $100 an hour where other counties pay $50 to $75, Jarvis said. After he announced his candidacy, she cut the pay for hourly attorneys to $75, Jarvis said.
She arbitrarily limited contract attorneys to 40 cases, contributing to an overflow of cases, he added.
Jarvis charged that the judge is “mismanaging the court as far as the attorneys are concerned” and contended that he understands what the court is supposed to do.
Jarvis said the judge has an attorney assigned to conservator cases until a child is 18 and he does not think that should be done.
Jarvis questioned some of the judge’s decisions, saying it is disruptive for children for the judge to order parents to alternate living in a house for a week at the time in custody fights.
He also called disruptive and confusing the judge’s program to have children with the mom two days, the dad two days, the mom five days and the dad five days.
It is unfair to attorneys for the judge to set 30 to 40 cases at 9:30 a.m. and make them wait when she could stagger the cases, Jarvis said.
He added that he thinks the “drug court” is not effective or successful.