By Virginia Hammerle , Attorney
Suzanne Wooten, the judge of the 380th District Court in Collin County, is not overseeing trials and hearings in her court, as she faces a trial of her own. When does she go to trial? Good question. Maybe this most recent trial setting will hold. If history dictates, maybe not.
Why do I bring this up? As a family law attorney who represents a lot of people from Plano, Frisco, Allen and McKinney in child custody matters and complex property issues, I spend a lot of time in the nine, general jurisdiction District Courts of Collin County (general jurisdiction district courts preside over civil matters with large amounts in controversy, felonies and family law matters). A number of those cases land in the 380th by luck of the draw.
But you just said that the judge of the 380th District Court is not hearing cases in her court. That’s correct. So, who hears the trials and hearings? Visiting judges.
We are very lucky in Collin Countyto have a number of excellent visiting judges sit in the 380th (and other courts when necessary). However, said judges generally only sit for a week at a time, causing a lack of continuity. In a family law matter that is not heavily litigated or high conflict, continuity is not an issue as often. However, in an acrimonious child custody or divorce involving complex property issues, litigants may find themselves in court numerous times prior to the actual trial of the matter. Thus, having the same judge preside over all of the hearings and the trial of a case are imperative from the standpoint of judicial economy, as well as the cost to the litigants.