The Many Courts of Williamson County

Your Votes Matter Even if You’re Not a Part of the Justice System

The court system in Williamson County affects citizens’ daily lives more than they may realize. While some probably expect they won’t ever be in a courtroom, there are valid reasons to know the differences—especially during election season—since the bench positions in many of our courts are on the ballot. 

County Judge

Our County Judge isn’t just a throwback to the Old West when one person was sheriff and judge and fire marshal. Our County Judge is a Constitutional Judge, so named because he presides over our four county courts and is the head of the Commissioners Court, the governing body of Williamson County. Our four commissioners and County Judge affect our lives every day in the taxes we pay and the quality of the roads we drive, and public safety services we enjoy. He also helps determine what support and incentives are offered to entities wishing to  provide goods and services for and within our county.

This vote is worthy of our study to ensure our taxes are managed and spent in a way that matches our personal priorities for the place in which we live.

Judges and Justices

Judges and justices are elected positions and candidates will have law degrees plus at least 10 years’ experience as attorneys. Judges preside over cases that may or may not have a jury and they may also be responsible for sentencing. 

District and County courts hear criminal, civil, and family law cases and are established based on population. With growth reflected in the 2020 census, Williamson County recently added County Court at Law #5 and the state added the 480th District Court. Newly appointed to the county bench, Judge Will Ward explained the reason district and county judge votes must also be researched. “The judges we elect define the atmosphere of the community. Safe communities have strong judges that protect public safety. Strong economies have diligent judges to settle disputes quickly. Judges may not always be seen, but they are the decision makers keeping each county safe and operating smoothly for its residents.”

As well, votes for appellate and state Supreme Court judges are worthy of our time because even if we are not personally appealing a court decision of some kind, the decisions the higher courts make have bearing on things like how state taxes are paid; or a higher court decision about a police action may determine how your next traffic stop proceeds according to statute.

Justices of the Peace

There are more than 800 JPs in Texas, and their jurisdictions are based on population. They are typically elected positions and when a vacancy occurs off-cycle, the Commissioners Court makes an appointment. JPs do not need a law degree, but they do have jurisdiction in Class C misdemeanor criminal cases, e.g., traffic violations and truancy. These courts also have jurisdiction of minor civil matters like evictions or small claims disputes. For many people, this is the only court in which they will ever appear. A justice of the peace may issue search or arrest warrants and may serve as the coroner in counties where there is no provision for a medical examiner. 

JPs are worthy of our votes because they help arbitrate our civil needs at the most basic level; i.e., they are the most like us—citizens with experience and wisdom, and capable of ensuring our laws and statutes are followed without bias. (Story on p. 38)

Important Voting Dates

Oct 24: First day early voting at designated locations
Nov 4: Last day early voting at designated locations
Nov 8: Election Day