This morning, Bexar County Commissioners approved a request from District Attorney Joe Gonzales for additional resources to help with a growing number of family violence cases.
The $350,624 request includes two misdemeanor prosecutors, a felony prosecutor and a paralegal. The need comes as all courts were forced to move to mostly virtual proceedings last March because of strict COVID-19 protocols. Since then, the number of misdemeanor and felony cases pending has increased by more than 60%.
“Since I took office in January 2019, I knew we needed help with family violence cases. I shifted staff and resources to increase the Family Violence Division by more than 60%. I had no idea the staff would have to review about 2,000 cases that had not been touched for years. The division cleared that backlog and even during a pandemic have managed to keep working up new cases. My staff and I agree that domestic violence is a serious problem in Bexar County. Now that they know they’ll have more help, they’ll be ready for jury trials to resume,” Gonzales said.
The additional misdemeanor prosecutors were initially requested by County Court at Law #13 Judge Rosie Speedlin Gonzalez to handle a growing docket. Then, her court and County Court at Law #7 were the only courts handling misdemeanor family violence cases. In late November, six other judges agreed to begin adding some of those cases to their dockets.
“Prior to that change, there were four misdemeanor prosecutors with an average caseload of 1,173 cases. Now, we are able to distribute those complex cases to additional prosecutors. With the additional staffing, we will be more prepared to get these cases into court to seek justice for the thousands of victims who have been waiting since the pandemic started,” Gonzales said.
Bexar County’s Administrative Judge determines when jury summons can be sent so that trials may resume. That is not expected to happen for several weeks.
To learn more about family violence and to see the latest data on pending cases, click here.