I want to welcome all of you to the Bexar County Children’s Court website wherein we will introduce you to the model courtroom nationally recognized by the Courtroom 21 Project of the William and Mary School of Law and the National Center for State Courts. Bexar County is quite proud and honored to showcase the Bexar County Children’s Courtroom, a place where children and families are provided their day in court with dignity and respect. We want to share our story and experience with you.
In 2003, our local leaders, County Judge Nelson Wolff and the First Lady of the County and Chair of the Hidalgo Foundation Tracy Wolff led an initiative to raise funds to completely renovate the 3rd floor of the historic Bexar County Courthouse, the oldest courthouse in the State of Texas. Through their efforts, the corporate community and many philanthropic individuals raised nearly $4 million dollars through a public and private partnership. Bexar County Commissioners Court endorsed this project by committing funds to create a courtroom that was child-friendly and sensitive to the needs of abused and neglected children. The private sector provided grants and contributions of nearly $3 million dollars that provided the cutting-edge technology and space design to recognize the complexity of these cases. Judge John Specia, 225th District Court and Judge Andy Mireles, 73rd District Court led the judiciary in their vision and support to alleviate the over-burdened and under-sized courtroom that was being used to hear the child abuse and neglect case docket.
The newly designed Bexar County Children’s Court was built through the eyes of children. It is child-focused and child-friendly. The layout of the courtroom recognized the many parties involved in this type of lawsuits and the courtroom allows children to appear in court with an adjustable witness stand. The crown jewel of the Courtroom is the Children’s Protection Room, a secured location within the courtrooms to provide a safe and restricted access for the children who appear and attend the court hearings.
This Courtroom creates cost-savings for the County through the use of video-conferencing to allow incarcerated parents to testify eliminating travel and housing costs of prisoners. Video-conferencing has reduced the amount of resets of case settings due to unavailability of litigants and attorneys. More importantly, the children in our foster care system are allowed their voice in the courtroom through this technology, especially when they are located far from the Courthouse. Justice is best served when all parties are given their day in court with the utmost dignity and respect.
We hope that you will enjoy this experience of visiting our website and viewing our Children’s Courtrooms through the DVD’s downloaded in here. We have included pertinent information and reference to other websites to find additional information. This website is dedicated to the many people, businesses, corporations, nonprofit organizations, Bexar County and all other governmental agencies that have made the Bexar County Children’s Court a tremendous and visionary success. It is our hope that we, as a society, commit to make a better world for all children.
Judge Peter Sakai
225th District Court
Bexar County Courthouse
San Antonio, Texas 78205