By Sahar Chmais
HAYS COUNTY – County Court at Law (CCL) #3 Judge Millie Thompson filed a lawsuit against the other CCL judges, Chris Johnson and Robert Updegrove.
The petition for declaratory judgement was filed late Thursday morning, April 8 at the Hays County District Court. Thompson, the plaintiff, seeks a declaratory judgement to allow her sole discretion to appoint a court coordinator for her court who serves at her pleasure.
In the Hays County Courts at Law, the court coordinator hiring and firing process is handled by the administrative judge, who is Judge Johnson. Hays County has set up a court coordinator system where the coordinators serve multiple judges, not just one.
Additionally, Thompson’s case seeks that Johnson and Updegrove shall vote on a reasonable salary for the court coordinator position and move those funds from Johnson’s control to Hays CCL #3. In the lawsuit, it is argued that court coordinators are appointees “for his court” and “serves at the pleasure of the judge who appointed him.” This is cited under Texas Government Code 74.101.
The code, under compensation section 74.104, also states that judges determine reasonable compensation for court coordinators, subject to approval by commissioners court.
According to the lawsuit, Thompson had tried to keep the same court personnel, but after a series of problems with the coordinators, Thompson wanted to appoint her own court coordinator.
Thompson went through the Human Resources (HR) department, which advised her that only Johnson could authorize the new hire, according to the lawsuit. After the retirement of the court administrator, a court coordinator was promoted to that empty position, so Thompson asked that the court coordinator position be reassigned to her court authority.
The case goes on to state that Thompson went to Commissioners Court and made the same request, but once again she was denied. Commissioners Court asked that judges work the issue out amongst themselves.
On March 29, Johnson indicated there would be a CCL judges meeting, but Thompson never received the call. The following day, Johnson sent an email that he and Updegrove convened without teleconferencing Thompson. Her request for the court coordinator was denied, according to the law suit.
“Judge Thompson has tried everything she can to avoid official legal process,” the lawsuit reads, “but she requires a court coordinator who answers solely to Hays County Court at Law #3, the Texas Legislature has granted her the discretion to make that decision for her court, and she is at an impasse with Judges Johnson and Updegrove.”