Chief Justice Nathan Hecht delivered the State of the Judiciary Feb. 1 to a joint session of the Texas legislature.
Williamson County Judges Billy Ray Stubblefield and Bill Gravell were honored to have been invited by Hecht to attend.
“It was an honor to receive the call,” Judge Gravell said. “As a member of the Texas Judicial Council, I am pleased to be able to help propagate the values and principles of Williamson County around the state.”
At the top of his address, Justice Hecht focused on security. His special guest at the address was Judge Julie Kocurek, who was shot last year at her home. “The Texas Judicial Council has made comprehensive recommendations to improve judicial security,” Hecht said. “Some protections exist already, but gaps should be closed and state funding for law enforcement and the Department of Public Safety should be increased to cover essential security costs, including personal protection for threatened judges.”
Judge Gravell commented, “Courthouse security is a major judicial issue. I am passionately behind the effort to make sure that our judges are safe and secure, and I am deeply grateful to have a sheriff who cares about that. He listens to our judges.”
Judge Gravell noted that although it is not public knowledge, judges and the court receive threats on a regular basis. “This is intolerable and inexcusable. This must be a focus of the Commissioners Court as well as local law enforcement, and half-hearted measures are inexcusable. What happened to Judge Kocurek is entirely avoidable if proper security measures are taken.”
Judge Gravell is also participating in the National Judicial College in Nevada, which provides guidelines for mentoring and coaching in the judiciary nationally. The program is designed to ensure judges are mentally and emotionally prepared to be successful on the bench. “Judges often a heavy responsibility for sentencing,” Gravell says, “and being necessarily isolated in their work is the most challenging part of the job. They need to be able to make good decisions, and I believe our Williamson County judges are getting it right most of the time. The mentor program is a way for great judges like (368th) Judge Rick Kennon to connect with and mentor our younger and newer judges. It is my hope that I can work with Hecht to create a program for all of Texas to adapt the kind of righteous wisdom we have here in Williamson County.”