Hays County: A Backlog Of Pending Court Cases

On July 6, 2022, Texas 2036 Policy Advisor Luis Soberon spoke with KXAN about data on Hays County’s criminal court backlog and how it relates to Texans who are waiting for trial in county jails. Here, he offers some additional context to court backlogs. 

The story of Hays County, Texas is similar to the situation across the whole state — a backlog of pending cases before the pandemic quickly grew once the courts shut down and jury trials stopped. What started as a backlog of roughly 1,500 pending criminal cases in Hays County District Courts grew over 2,600 by the end of May 2022.

As noted in the KXAN article, more cases equals longer time between arrest and trial. This means defendants and victims alike are waiting longer for their day in court, and the community is left with the costs — both fiscal and social — of longer pretrial detention in county jail.

However, for Hays County, there are two bright spots:

  • The first, as suggested in the news story, Hays County District Courts have had consistently positive clearance rates, meaning the backlog is on a much better trajectory towards being manageable.
  • The second, and much more consequential bright spot, is that the Texas Legislature passed a new law that will come into effect this September, which creates the new 483rd District Court for Hays County.

One of the keys to solving the backlog is more judges. Creating a new, permanent court shows smart, long-term thinking on the part of Hays County officials as well as State Legislators.

Read and watch the KXAN story here.