At our weekly Rotary meeting on April 23, our club was joined and heard insights from several judges that serve Denton County in the Criminal and Probate Courts.
Pictured (from L to R): Ron Marchant (retired Denton County Commissioner), Rotarian Shawn Dollar, Probate Court #2 Judge Chris Everett, Rotarian Elizabeth Jones, Criminal Court #2 Judge Susan Piel, County Court at Law #1 Judge Kimberly McCray, Criminal Court #1 Judge Lauri Ragland, County Court at Law #2 Judge Robert Ramirez, Probate Court #1 Judge David Jahn and Rotary Club President Shane Kading.
Judge Kimberly McCray presides over County Court at Law #1 in Denton County. She primarily handles the Juvenile Court, which oversees infractions committed by those ages 10-17. She loves working with the other county judges and the support received, and was emphatic that the judges work for the people within the confines of the law.
Judge Robert Ramirez presides over County Court at Law #2 and he only oversees civil cases, as opposed to criminal cases. He spoke about how he does respond to emails about factual inquiries and the court processes, but cannot speak to individual cases on the docket.
Judge Lauri Ragland over County Criminal Court #1 is one of the newer faces to the Denton County Judge group. She overhears criminal misdemeanor cases, including DWIs. She spoke of how the COVID pandemic really caused issues with the judicial system. Her court had 176 cases on the trial docket when everything shut down and it took her six months to work through the docket to get many of the cases resolved. She is very conscientious of how tax dollars are spent to benefit her court and staff.
Judge Susan Piel oversees Criminal Court #2 and was proud to announce that she is also a Rotarian, representing the Cross Timbers Club. Her court is a difficult one that is a designated domestic violence court that also manages and supervises those who are out on bond awaiting trial. She has more than 29 years of legal experience and has seen a lot of changes in the judicial system and what judges are empowered to do during that time.
Our last two speakers were from the Probate Courts - Judge David Jahn and Judge Chris Everett. Denton County is just one of 12 counties in Texas with probate courts, which is a system you generally enter into of no fault of your own. They handle a lot of eminent domain cases, mental health crises that require intervention and guardianship cases where a loved one has passed away or become incapacitated. They have seen their court cases ride from 1,000 in 2010 to 1,800 in 2023, which led to the establishment of a second Probate Court in 2022. Judge Jahn also serves on the Judicial Commission for Mental Health in the hopes of driving change within communities. They spoke wonderfully of how the cooperation between Denton County judiciary is unique and how great they work together.
We want to thank these tremendous members of our community for taking the time to educate us on the court system in our County! Thank you Judges!