Williamson County to add a district court, county court to Justice Center in coming year

Williamson County Commissioners discussed plans for adding courtrooms to the Justice Center during an April 26 meeting. (Claire Shoop/Community Impact Newspaper)

As Williamson County continues to grow, so does the number of courts serving the county.

Williamson County Commissioners Court discussed plans to add the 480th District Court and County Court at Law No. 5 to the Justice Center in the coming year during an April 26 meeting.

County Judge Bill Gravell said the district court will be moving into the almost completed courtroom on the first floor of the Justice Center, located at 405 Martin Luther King Jr. St., Georgetown. The courtroom is expected to be ready for occupancy on Oct. 1, and Gravell said Gov. Greg Abbott will appoint a judge to serve that court prior to then.

County commissioners approved a contract in October 2020 for $2.8 million with HCS Inc. for finish-out work of the new courtroom and other remodeling throughout the Justice Center. Additionally, Gravell said the corresponding contract for the district court judge’s chambers will be going out for bid in the coming week.

This will be the sixth district court in Williamson County. According to the Texas Judicial Branch, district courts are state trial courts with jurisdiction over felony criminal cases, divorce cases, land cases, election contests and civil matters involving more than $200 in damages.

By early 2023, Williamson County will also add County Court at Law No. 5, causing some additional reshuffling at the Justice Center. This court will meet on the second floor where the IV-D Court—the court named in reference to Part D, Title IV of the Federal Social Security Act that handles child support cases—meets, Gravell said.

While the IV-D court has not been meeting in person, it will begin to meet two days a week starting this fall in the jury room on the basement level, Gravell said. This will allow the space to be used for other ceremonies or events three days a week.

Gravell suggested renaming this basement-level space the Stubblefield Courtroom, after retiring Regional Presiding Judge Billy Ray Stubblefield. No action was taken on renaming the courtroom April 26.

Some of Stubblefield’s existing office at the Justice Center will be converted into the chambers for the IV-D judge, while his remaining chamber space will be retained by the county, Gravell said.

“Whenever we give away space, it is very difficult for us to get it back. And I really want to caution us not to give away space to agencies that are not Williamson County,” Gravell said.

With these expansions, Gravell said the only remaining courtroom at the Justice Center is a smaller one on the second floor.

This upstairs courtroom will be remodeled and outfitted with technology similar to that in County Court at Law No. 5 and the basement courtroom. An approximately $130,000 contract for this technology was unanimously approved in a separate item during the April 26 meeting.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long acknowledged the financial investments the county has made in the judicial branch over the past several years, including these renovations at the Justice Center.

Making room for future courts will require other entities to move, Gravell said.

“Everyone needs to understand that no space belongs to them and that we’ve got to be flexible as a family,” he said.