Cameron County court space opening delayed

BROWNSVILLE — Judges and staff for the two newest Cameron County courts-at-law will have to wait a couple more weeks than anticipated to move into their courtrooms.

Facilities Management Director Danny Villarreal recently told commissioners that construction at the Cameron County Courthouse on 974 E. Harrison St. will be substantially complete by Jan. 9, and operations are scheduled to begin Jan. 22.

That’s two weeks later than county officials previously expected County Courts-at-Law No. 4 and No. 5 to begin working out of their new courtrooms. County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr. said commissioners believed the courtrooms would ready for business Jan. 8.

Villarreal said construction sometimes had to be paused while court was in session. Furniture is slated to arrive Jan. 11, he said, and the later start date will cushion any delivery delays caused by winter weather.

County Administrator David A. Garcia said the two additional weeks will ensure the courtrooms are fully ready for move-in.

“We want to try and get in there as quickly as possible, but we also want to give ourselves some time and have (each) courtroom ready for the judge,” he said, “(and) have everything set up in a working manner.”

Judge Sheila Garcia Bence of County Court-at-Law No. 4, which began operating this year, has been sharing the existing courtrooms of court-at-law judges.

She has been planning her docket around the later courtroom completion date for several weeks because people travel from out of town for probate cases. Garcia Bence also hears guardianship, mental health and civil cases.

“I’m very pleased that the other courts were willing to accommodate us and help us do what we needed to do,” she said.

Come January, Judge Estela Chavez Vasquez will take the bench for the newly created County Court-at-Law No. 5.

“It’s going to take some time for her cases to build up, so hopefully by the time she’s ready to hear cases, her courtroom will be available,” Garcia Bence said. “I think mid-January, everything’s going to operate the way it’s supposed to. We’re looking forward to being in our new courtroom and the new year.”