Tour of the Travis County Courthouse
Tour of the Travis County Courthouse
Hi, Charlie here. Is it time for you to go to court? I'm going to give you a short tour of the Travis County courthouse - 509 W. 11th St. It's officially called the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, and I'm going to give you a little tour of a typical courtroom.
You can always look for the green tinted windows and a nine story building. Behind the front doors is regular security just like you're at the airport with metal detectors. Don't bring any drugs, guns, or knives.
There are 17 courtrooms in this building and only one is on the first floor. To get to the other 16, you'll have to take the elevator. The courtrooms are on all different floors and it is important to note courtroom five is not on the fifth floor; courtroom five is on the fourth floor. So you have to look at the chart and figure out which floor you're going to.
You can tell you're in the misdemeanor courts because the ceilings are high, but not as high as the District Courts. With the District Courts, it is even more intimidating.
I want to show you who everybody is in the courtroom. What you will look for is if the bailiff wants you to check in. Sometimes you'll see the bailiff standing around. They will make eye contact, ask your name, and check you off. Sometimes a judge will call the docket, and they will call your name. If you're there, you just say, "I'm here."
You're going to see the judge is going to be sitting up there, if he/she is sitting on the bench. Sometimes they're in the back chambers, doing whatever it is they do back there.
There are certain circumstances where you will stand in front of the judge. The judges in Travis County are all very nice; they're going to be pleasant with you. If you're standing in front of a judge, I'll be there with you.
The person sitting here to the judge's left will be the court clerk. Their job is to keep track of the court's file, and any motions, or bonds - the basic stuff that the judge needs to know for what's happening on the case. These people are completely neutral about what happens; they don't care about the cases. They just want to there's no paperwork error.
Here would be the Judge's court administrator. This person would be in charge of the docket, making sure all of the cases set today that something happens. They either get reset, or resolved, or whatever it is.
This is where the in-court probation office would sit. This person is in-charge of doing the paperwork when someone starts probation. If someone starts pleas out and accepts a probation term, the probation officer would coordinate and get the paperwork done.
This is the jury box. Different courts have different uses for it during the regular docket. Of course if there is a trial, this is where the jury will sit. Because we are in a misdemeanor court, there's six people on a misdemeanor jury. While they're not in trial, anyone could be sitting here - defense attorneys, prosecutors.
The last group is the prosecutors. In different courts, they sit in different places. Sometimes they're here in open court just sitting down. Sometimes they're in the jury box and sometimes they're in the backroom in the jury conference room. When we walk into the courtroom, we are looking to see where everyone is. We figure out which prosecutor we need to talk to about your case.
What my office recommends is that you text us, and you let us know you're here. Because we have a bunch of cases, we do them in the way that gets the best result for everybody. Sometimes, you have to be here at 9am and we get here at 9:30am, sometimes even 9:45am because we are in the backrooms, downstairs, or upstairs doing things.
The one thing you can know for sure is that we are not going to disadvantage you or your case, or get you in trouble, or us in trouble or anything.