Concerned citizens from West Texas saw a problem in the law and drove seven hours to the Texas Capitol to get involved. Justice of the Peace, Maryanne Ludecke, from Fort Davis, along with several county judges visited with legislators on Tuesday to share their thoughts on Senate Bill 378 by Senator Charles Perry. Maryanne is second from the right.
Ms. Ludecke explained a problem that would be remedied by SB 378: Under current law, Justices of the Peace are responsible for conducting death inquests. However, most counties have only one Justice of the Peace and cover a very large area and are not always able to perform this duty. In order to remedy this problem, they support proposals that would allow another county’s Justice of the Peace to perform the inquest in the case when the presiding JP is not available to do the inquest. Ms. Ludecke wishes that the legislature would “erase county lines and have it where a Justice of the Peace is constrained only within the border of the state of Texas.”
In his explanation of SB 378, Sen. Charles Perry explains the situation that prompted the creation of this legislation: “This issue first came to light on February 12, 2016, when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in his sleep in Presidio County, Texas. At that time, no justice of the peace was available to complete the inquest so the inquest was done over the phone. Texas received much criticism for how the process worked and that the inquest was not done in person.” Ms. Ludecke added that in the case of a mass-disaster, it would be beneficial to have the legal ability to receive assistance from another Justice of the Peace.
She spoke before the Senate State Affairs committee on Monday morning, testifying about her perspective on SB 378 and said, “I’m in it for JPs statewide.” Her testimony before the committee can be heard at: http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=42&clip_id=11690
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