Angry attorneys confront county leaders over dysfunctional criminal and family law records system

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Defense lawyers took Lubbock County Commissioners to task Friday morning for a new computer system that, in their words, does not work.

Its failure to work is, according to the lawyers, so bad that it actually violates the basic constitutional rights of local citizens and costs taxpayers extra money for defendants to unnecessarily stay in jail.

The attorneys also said it interferes with family law cases including those cases where there is a threat of domestic violence.

On November 6, 2018, Tyler Technologies announced an agreement with Lubbock County “valued at approximately $10 million.” In August 2021, the switch was made from the old KiCorps system to Tyler. That’s when trouble began.

Local attorney Ben Garcia took the lead in making a presentation to the commissioners.

Garcia said a family law client might come to him and say, “Something terrible has happened. It’s endangering my children.” Garcia said he or any other lawyer should be able to type in a case number and get useful information immediately. But now, the police reports, witness statements, arrest records and even some court records are not readily available.

Lawyers end up calling the county clerk’s office, Garcia said, to ask about cases which takes away time and effort from county employees.

Attorney Dwight McDonald said clients in the jail are shown incorrect information. Those in jail might see a computer screen showing they can post bond or post bond at a particular dollar amount when in fact a judge has already ruled otherwise. The client thinks the defense attorney is lying or incompetent.

McDonald made reference to a specific client in jail for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, saying, “This system is messed up, and that guy is sitting in jail without his day in court.”

McDonald said he has multiple clients in this same situation. One of his clients cried, he said.

“You shouldn’t have to cry,” he said during the public meeting.

“If the lawyers had been allowed a seat at the table, we wouldn’t be seeing this problem,” Garcia said. “If somebody is being held after the warrant is no longer in place, after the case has been dismissed for example, that is a huge problem. Even a single day is too long. So that would be a big problem and could expose the county to civil liability.”

It has a “dramatic effect” on the administration of justice.

“We’re coming out of COVID, and there’s already a case backlog,” Garcia said. We need a system that is effective, he added.

“We pride ourselves in America about our systems, the judicial system being one of them,” McDonald said. “Justice delayed is justice denied. That’s just a tagline, because this system is showing that we don’t really mean it.”

After the meeting, County Judge Curtis Parrish said the immediate concern was, “Does the system work?”

“I think we’ll have a good system,” he said. But it’s not working yet. He said his first priority is to make sure that constitutional rights are protected.

“We know that with any software conversion that we are going to have issues,” Judge Parrish said. “I just want to make sure that any issues we are having are not affecting somebody’s rights, somebody’s liberties. I know we’ve got convenience issues. We are working diligently to get those corrected.”

Even before the official presentation by Garcia, a few lawyers spoke out in the public comment portion of the commissioner’s meeting.

Bill De Haas was among them. As a former city employee, De Haas said he helped with a computer billing system integration, so he understands how complicated it is.

But De Haas also said, “Why am I here today? Why do I have to tell the commissioner’s court there is a problem?”

He said he should be watching as others fix the problem, not coming to the commissioners to tell them things are wrong.

“I’m angry.”

After a moment of silence, De Haas then said, “I’ll close with that.”

EverythingLubbock.com reached out to Tyler Technologies both by phone and by email. We will provide an update if Tyler accepts an invitation for comment.

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