The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

February 19, 2014

Feb. 16 — Letters to the Editor

Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — Tittle a champion

To the editor:

The Herald-Banner hosted a very informative debate between the two candidates for district judge. We have two very good judges who are each doing a good job in his respective court.

Judge Tittle does an excellent job in the district court because he has practiced in it for over 13 years. Further, he is the only district judge and candidate we have who is board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, an accomplishment achieved by less than two percent of Texas attorneys.

Judge Bench does an excellent job in the county court because he has been in it as a judge for over seven years handling juvenile cases and probate cases. The courts handle very different matters and levels of offenses. I do not want either court to change.

Judge Tittle has been a champion for Hunt County taxpayers as he has advocated since 2011 to get the other judges to agree and hold a public meeting to review why Hunt County spends so much on criminal defense lawyers.

Despite the requests, no public hearing has been held. The two issues are the high hourly rate we pay and the fact that we do not have limits on the hours the defense lawyers can charge the county. I encourage all the judges to publicly meet and discuss this important taxpayer issue.

 If most other counties in Northeast Texas pay less than we do, including Rockwall County, the issue needs to be addressed. Thank you, Judge Tittle, for bringing this to the attention of voters so that we know the facts that differentiate the candidates and their position on the issue.

Graham Sweeney


Look at records

To the editor:

I have represented the Hunt County Community Supervision and Corrections Department (formerly known as the Adult Probation Department) for approximately 25 years.

 Until Judge Tittle took the bench, my representation of the department was quite sporadic, dealing primarily with contract and employment issues and generating very little in the way of attorney’s fees. After Judge Tittle took the bench in January of 2011, that significantly changed.

As the attorney for the department, I feel compelled to address certain representations made in Judge Tittle’s campaign ad appearing in the Feb. 10 edition of the Herald-Banner. In his ad, Judge Tittle states, “I also helped establish our probation department.” Not true. The probation department was established long before Judge Tittle was born.

In his ad, Judge Tittle states, “With my assistance, probation has not only balanced its $1.1 million budget, but it now has a $400,000.00 surplus.” Again, not true. The department’s budget is reviewed and approved annually by four judges.

 Judge Tittle has not once suggested any revision to the proposed budget of the department that was ever incorporated into an approved budget. Furthermore, the department maintained a surplus of over $410,000.00 before Judge Tittle ever took the bench.

Instead, due to his massive waivers of monthly probation supervision fees in contravention of applicable law, Judge Tittle has significantly reduced the department’s surplus.

Curiously, Judge Tittle equates the payment of taxes by the general, law-abiding public to the payment of monthly probation supervision fees that are required by law to be paid by criminals placed on probation.  Contorted analogy.

Finally, Judge Tittle says he wants to run on his record, but then characterizes those who want the public to know about his record as mudslingers. Judge Tittle’s waiver of probation fees without any evidence to support his implied finding of  “significant financial hardship” is part of his record, not mud. But you certainly don’t have to take my word for it. You can look at irrefutable court records.

Joe Weis


Setting record straight

To the editor:

At the candidate forum on Monday night, Judge Tittle yet again repeated his claim that he spent approximately 40 percent less on court appointed attorney’s fees than the other district court.  It is time to set the record straight about that claim.

The truth is that for the 2012-13 budget year, Judge Beacom had three death penalty cases and one death penalty trial, and Tittle didn’t. Death penalty cases are expensive.  When you back out the death penalty expenses (almost all due to that one trial) the true numbers become clear.

  In non-death penalty cases, Judge Tittle outspent Judge Beacom by $100,000.00 and resolved 120 fewer cases.  For every non-death penalty case in the 2012-13 budget year, Judge Beacom spent an average of $534 per case and Judge Tittle spent $764 per case. That’s over 33 percent more per case (these numbers can be verified by documents at the county auditor’s office). 

But it looks like Judge Tittle intends to mislead the voters as to how much he actually spends on court appointed attorneys.

Judge Tittle has complained that lawyers from surrounding counties flock to Hunt County to collect our allegedly exorbitant fees.  Yet, when Judge Bench proposed a rule to require an attorney to live in or have their office in Hunt County to be eligible to be on the court appointed list, only one judge opposed it – Judge Tittle.

Let’s look at who has really worked to reduce indigent defense costs to the taxpayers.   Death penalty case expenses cannot be accurately listed in a yearly budget because it isn’t a recurring standard cost.  The expenses vary due to the number of cases indicted as well as the unique facts in each case.

 Judge Bench brought the West Texas Capital Defense program to Hunt County and lobbied the Hunt County Commissioner’s Court to sign up for it. Now the county only pays a set fee to be in the program (like an insurance premium) which is a fraction of the cost of one death penalty case.

From now on, every death penalty case in Hunt County will be handled by the West Texas Capital Defense program and it only costs Hunt County the premium. If five death penalty cases are indicted, the program has to pay for its staff lawyers and investigators to do those cases.  As a lawyer who has worked on three death penalty cases, I supported Judge Bench in his efforts because it benefitted Hunt County. 

This program will save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars (and possibly millions) in court appointed attorney’s fees.

Too many people have blindly accepted Judge Tittle’s statements on these issues.  I hope that this sets the record straight.

Katherine A. Ferguson