Debates on options for the Parker County law library space continued Monday morning after three alternatives presented were deemed inadequate by a committee made up of local attorneys and Bar Association members.
In December, the Parker County commissioners approved turning the current law library — located in the District Clerk’s Office — into a passport facility to which the committee members spoke out against after they heard of the change in January. The commissioners did not reverse the motion but asked District Clerk Sharena Gilliland to hold off on the passport facility transition until options could be explored by the law library committee.
The committee was recently shown three spaces as potential options to move the law library.
“We met with a representative of the judge’s office and with Kevin [Holloway, with building and grounds] and we were shown a couple of spaces here in the [County Court at Law 2] building,” Bar Association attorney and library committee member Soraya Joslin said. “Of the three spaces, one was absolutely not available — it was an alcove with no electricity, we couldn’t function. We were shown a break room that opens to a kitchen that couldn’t be secured or locked, so I think even the staff recognized that wasn’t a workable solution and the third location was a hallway that has a door on it currently, but it also has a back door that opens to county clerk storage and it’s really narrow, so there would only be one wall that would function in that area.”
Parker County Judge Pat Deen addressed Joslin’s comments about the break room option.
“It does have access to the kitchen that creates a bit of a situation there, obviously from a security side, but it does have a camera in there. In talking to Kevin there are some modifications that could be made to that location if need be, so that’s not totally eliminated, and there are funds that could be used for that if that was a decision made by the committee,” Deen said. “That’s something we could explore further to make it work, but it does have access to the kitchen and there is a modification that would work for that, so I’m just pointing that out.”
Precinct 1 Commissioner George Conley said he still can’t believe people didn’t know about the library.
“I’m still just baffled that nobody knew we had a law library,” Conley said. “It’s amazing to me how important this law library is all of a sudden that we’ve had for 20 years and nobody used it.”
Joslin said they conducted a survey with area attorneys, which concluded that those aware of the law library have been licensed for 20 years or more and those unaware have been practicing for a decade or less.
“Since this has been brought to our attention, we have utilized the space — I’ve had two meetings in that space since we knew we had access to it. It’s kind of dusty and needs to be redone, we have the funds to do that,” Joslin said. “I can guarantee this court that that space would be utilized every day of court business. We’re benefiting the local, legal community by having quick access so when we’re fighting the big dogs, we have the tools that other attorneys have.”
County Court at Law 2 Judge Lynn Marie Johnson shared her thoughts about the law library.
“A law library has to be in a public space. Traditionally, it’s been attached to district courts and it also needs to be in a place that’s secure, not only because of equipment needs but because that’s the place where I need to send pro se litigants to pull up documents. You can’t go out and find a private space because these are county funds to be utilized for county purposes, which is a law library for employees of the county, pro se litigants and lawyers that appear in Parker County,” Johnson said. “If they’re going to use the space, they need the space and I would love to send some pro se litigants there. Putting [the attorneys] in a position to negotiate with elected officials is not very fair. This is a decision that y’all need to discuss. I think there’s a need and they need to have an opportunity to use, and then you reassess it in six months.”
Gilliland offered the committee a 5-foot-by-8-foot section of the current space to place a computer terminal and some books.
“The whole intention of this was to provide services, so we want that space to be used to provide services,” Gilliland said. “I just haven’t had any follow-up discussions with them regarding the type of space they might actually be able to function in.”
But Joslin said Holloway looked into carving out that section of space and because of the wiring and HVAC system, it wasn’t possible to complete that.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Larry Walden said he wants to hear from the committee what’s necessary for them.
“Obviously we’ve been told that many of the books in the law library are outdated and not necessary, so I guess what we’d like to hear is what is necessary, which I’ve yet to hear, and how we can come to a compromise because we don’t want to have to choose sides here but we’ll do it if we have to,” Walden said. “Action has already been taken, but we’re here to do what’s best for everybody and we’d like for that to be something that everybody goes away with what they can use. I haven’t heard anything except y’all need all this space and probably some more, we recognize that and it’s the same with pretty much every county office that we need more space. We don’t want to hinder anyone, but on the other hand, to be very honest, we can get by without it. We’ve had the space there and it’s not been utilized for whatever reason and we recognize that as something that needs to be corrected.”
Deen said they will push the item to a future meeting again to allow the committee more time to find a solution.
“We’ll table this and push this back and have you bring a solution to us because currently, this court has made the decision that this is going to be a passport facility and to move the library,” Deen said. “What I would like to do is to push this back to you to find that solution somewhere and find a negotiable agreement that we can come back to the court with.”