Judge Gilford “Gil” Jones announced he would not be seeking re-election in 2012 at a press conference in the Burnet Courthouse Annex, February 18.
“I want to stop while I’m still effective,” said Judge Jones. “I’m in good health and I want to enjoy life.”
Since taking the bench in January 1997 as the 33rd Judicial District Judge, he has seen the creation of many resources and changes in the judicial system.
Judge Jones has seen the forming of resources such as the Intermediate Sanction facility, the forming of the Hill Country Children’s Advocacy Center.
With these resources, including the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the judicial system was quite remarkable for a rural five-county judicial district, said Judge Jones.
Some changes Judge Jones has seen are mostly in how the court’s business has been conducted, as cases grew more complex on both civil and criminal dockets.
“The volume of case filings has varied at time but with an overall steady increase in volume and activity,” said Judge Jones.
One of the most significant changes Judge Jones has seen was the forming of the 424th Judicial District, which he was greatly involved by writing the legislation for the district. The creation was a result of the Texas Legislature cutting the visiting judge budget about 70 percent in 2003, crippling the program.
“Having the ‘sister district’ replaced the need for use of visiting judges,” said Judge Jones. “Except in extraordinary situations.”
Other changes made over the years included the implementation that all probationers, in 1997, who do not have either a diploma or GED, must work toward a GED; the 33rd Judicial District became the second judicial district, also in 1997, in the State of Texas to implement the CourtCall system for efficiently conducting telephonic hearings, which has saved attorneys and their clients countless hours and dollars by avoiding unnecessary travel.
Judge Jones also saw the implementation of the “Kids First” seminar was introduced in 1997, in which divorcing parents attend a four hour seminar designed to get parents focused on effective communication regarding their children during the trying times of a divorce and afterward.
Though he saw many changes happen in the judicial district, Judge Jones also implemented many changes himself, which included having the judicial district become one of the first courts to order mediation in CPS cases, which is now a routine practice in most Texas courts.
He also ruled and affirmed on two significant cases of first impression in Texas, one involving ownership of the horseshoebay.com domain and another declaring granite to be a “mineral” for purposes of the Texas mineral law.
Judge Jones created the first website for the 33rd and 424th district courts, which contains forms, procedures, and information for attorneys and the public at no cost to the taxpayers.
He developed and put into practice a radically different procedure for moving criminal cases by working closely with both the district attorney’s office and the criminal defense bar, resulting in few pretrial hearing being necessary.
Judge Jones also created the first multi-county drug court in Texas using grant funds, which has been well over 50 percent effective in graduating drug-free citizens with a near-zero recidivism rate among those who successfully completed the rigid program.
Though Judge Jones is not seeking re-election for the next term he still has goal he would like to see accomplished in the future, whether he is in office or not.
Judge Jones talked about how the court infrastructure must keep up the pace of increasing caseloads, in which the court resources will have to grow.
“Growth will continue, especially in Burnet and Blanco Counties,” said Judge Jones. “Burnet County needs to become a judicial district by itself.”
He also suggested that the county auditor be added to Blanco County this coming fiscal year, and the counties of the district should supplement the salary of the district judge by at least $5,000 to $10,000 annually and increase funding for the prosecution staff.
Judge Jones added that Llano County needs to move Commissioners Court to another location to accommodate the increase in caseloads and use of the courtroom and that plans should be laid for a separate county courtroom.
He also mentioned that certified interpreters are needed and enhancements to security are needed in all the county courthouses so both the public and county employees are safe.
After the 2012 elections Judge Jones will work as a visiting judge and practice mediations. He also plans to become more involved in his many hobbies.