Christopher Clark was appointed to the Ector County Court at Law Judge No. 2 position by county commissioners during a meeting today, filling in the seat left vacant after former Judge Scott Layh resigned in late December.
Clark’s appointment leaves another vacancy as he resigned from his position as justice of the peace in Precinct 2. He will officially take his newly appointed position Jan. 15.
The JP vacancy prompted discussion from members of the commissioners’ court. Precinct 3 Commissioner Dale Childers voiced concern over putting a burden on the Justice of the Peace courts by removing Clark.
“I don’t want to put a burden on the County Courts at Law by not appointing Chris for that long, but I also don’t want to put a burden on JPs by having that office vacant for that long a period of time,” Childers said, proposing they could split the burden between the courts. “Maybe wait a month or two and then appoint you so that position is open for a period of time. Then, the latter half of that will be the burden of the JP’s office.”
Clark approached the commissioners by telling them the situation was a matter of case load.
“I think we currently have 30 or 40 open cases in the JP court as opposed to hundreds in the County Court at Law No. 2,” Clark told the commissioners.
He also brought up the fact that County Court at Law Judge Jim Bobo is planning to retire at the end of 2018, and County Judge Ron Eckert has made it known he will not seek reelection and may resign before his term ends.
“In about 11 months and two weeks, I’m going to be the senior judge down at the county court level, because Bobo is leaving and is going to be replaced by someone who will be a very good judge, but has zero days of experience, and whoever becomes the county judge is going to have zero days of experience,” he said. “So I need to get down there as quickly as I can so that I can A: Keep the dockets current, and B: Learn as much as I can from Judge Bobo within the time that he’s going to be here.”
Clark also made the point that when he was appointed to his Justice of the Peace position, he was not appointed until April of 2009, filling a vacancy left behind in December of 2008, and said he was able to catch up the backlog of cases very quickly.
Childers said Clark had answered almost all of his questions, but also asked how long training would take for a new justice of the peace judge. Clark told him newly appointed judges are required to attend an 80 hour course at the Texas Justice Court Training center, and should there be anyone appointed to fill in temporarily, he would be able to help them until the election.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Armando Rodriguez told the court he saw leaving the JP 2 position vacant would put a burden on the other three precincts.
“It’ll be a much bigger burden on the county courts,” Eckert told Rodriguez.
Eckert added that he is the only county judge who also has to handle county budget and commissioners’ meetings.
“You dump a couple hundred extra cases on me and expect me to do everything else too, it’s going to be pretty hard,” Eckert said.
Following the discussion, Clark was appointed to the County Court at Law Judge No. 2 position by a 4-1 vote, with Rodriguez being the opposing vote.
“I wish they would have decided to wait for the election,” Rodriguez said. “It is bad that this is happening.”
Following his appointment, the commissioners unanimously accepted Clark’s resignation as a justice of the peace judge. Eckert and the rest of the court thanked Clark for his years of service with a standing ovation.
There are seven Republican candidates running to fill Clark’s vacated justice of the peace position: Matthew Stringer, Marvin Jennings, Gary Dunda, Jet Brown, Missi Walden, Sheryl Jones and Steven Westfall.
No Democrats have filed to run for the seat.
With that many candidates, commissioners and Clark both acknowledged there will most likely be a runoff after the March primary. Eckert said at this point there have been no plans to appoint a new JP to the position due to the amount of primary candidates.
The Commissioners’ Court also recognized the death of Jackie Sue Barnes at the beginning of the meeting, who died Sunday at 81. Eckert said she was the longest serving district clerk the county has had. Her funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church, 709 N. Lee Ave.
IN OTHER BUSINESS, COMMISSIONERS:
- Approved a request by Experience Works, a nonprofit organization, to use one of the vacant offices at the Northside Senior Center, on the caveat that Ector County would not pay for office equipment or furniture.
- Approved a request to install a four-way stop and all necessary signage at the intersection of West Flagstone Street and South Arrowhead Avenue.
- Approved a required resolution to apply for grant funds with the Permian Basin Regional Planning Commission for a regional solid waste grants program.
- Accepted a $2,000 donation from the Fraternal Order of Police Odessa Lodge #1 for the vest program for the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, a $4,000 donation from XTO Energy Inc. for the ECSO, a $312.50 donation from Hence Barrow for ECSO, and approved the purchase of a 2018 Tahoe to be used for the ECSO with Sheriff’s Office funds.
- Approved a proposed 2017 Sole Source List, a list of replacement parts required for county vehicles.
- Approved the proposed Abatement of Vehicles proposal specification.
- Approved a proposed agreement between Ector County and Bizodo Inc., doing business as SeamlessDocs, for unlimited document storage and accessibility.
- Approved a MHRC-SUBIE for 0.21 acre Lot 26, Block 38, Western Hills Subdivision located at 12032 W. Barbara St.
- Approved a proposed line item transfer to Courthouse Security Fund, Longevity Pay in the amount of $728 and to Cost of Living Allowance in the amount of $224, from Full Time Salaries in the amount of $952.
- Approved a proposed budget amendment from Unreserved Fund Balance to Office Supplies in the amount of $800 to purchase updated Labor Law posters for all county buildings.
- Approved the Accounts Payable Fund Requirements Report for January 8, 2018.