County and District Attorney Patrick Wilson came before the commissioners Monday with a plea to approve magistrate services when evidentiary warrants are required.
Wilson explained to the commissioners that only judges who are also attorneys can sign these warrants.
“Justices of the peace and municipal judges cannot sign these types of warrants unless they are an attorney,” Wilson said.
This need arises when law enforcement receives a refusal for a blood draw to test blood alcohol content or for narcotics and the test results are necessary for prosecution if there is sufficient evidence.
“I have cases here in my hand that could not be prosecuted because we could not get a warrant signed,” Wilson said.
He went on to detail the case specifics of speeding, a person being dragged behind a truck while beer cans and drugs were found in the truck.
“Our first intention was to create a voluntary rotating system of magistrates. The voluntary system did not work. While a couple stepped up, some flatly said they would not participate,” Wilson said.
The judges reported by Wilson to be available around the clock were Bob Carroll and Joe Grubbs.
The two agenda items placed before the commissioners were for the county to enter into a contract with Municipal Court Judges Scott Kurth and Bill Scott to provide magistrate services to issue warrants pertaining to certain alleged intoxication offenses.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Paul Perry questioned Wilson on the logic of paying for magistrate services when the needed magistrates are already available.
“Yes there are the magistrates in the county that could sign these warrants, but at midnight when I make four calls and no one answers the phone, what do we do?” Wilson asked Perry.
Both Perry and Wilson agreed these can be signed electronically at their office, their home or wherever they are.
The agreement between the county allows the county to pay these two magistrates $50 for each case reviewed.
“Not for each warrant approved, but for each case they review,” Wilson said.
The funds to pay the magistrates for the service will come from the Ells County asset forfeiture fund. Both magistrate service agreements were approved unanimously.
The commissioners discussed for the second time entering into a contract with the Texas Department of Transportation for the use of the closed rest stop on Interstate 35E between Forreston and Waxahachie.
Ellis County Sheriff Johnny Brown initially brought up the suggestion to use the closed rest stop for highway vehicle inspections.
During last month's meeting, the commissioners took no action citing issues with the contract.
During this month's meeting the discussion came up again still looking at issues with the agreement between the state and the county.
Perry asked Brown if it were approved, would he use it?
“Maybe we would,” Brown responded. “This started out as an inquiry. It would be a whole lot safer for our officers not having to be on the side of the road.”
He continued saying, “Presently the county’s officers as well as the Department of Public Safety officers use available exits where there is adequate room for a safe inspection.”
Other action unanimously approved by the commissioners:
declaring a list of items surplus for disposal approval of a three-year lease of a motor grader with a lease purchase option for Road and Bridge Precinct 2 continuing participation in the Texas County Retirement system adoption of rules for determining which fires warrant investigation by the Ellis County Fire Marshall