A New Kaufman County Courthouse?

Kaufman County Online reports on where local candidates stand on building a new courthouse for Kaufman County.

To summarize the arguments-
Pro New Courthouse- The current courthouse is too small, we need to expand. Let’s move the courts next to our new jail (next to the highway).
Anti New Courthouse- Voters rejected this idea. Quit issuing bonds and raising taxes. The voters rejected a new $22M courthouse two years ago.

Some Background
The Kaufman County Courthouse is located on the Courthouse Square in downtown Kaufman.
Texas has some great courthouses, Ellis County (Waxahachie) is my local favorite. One thing our courthouse does not have going for it is aesthetics. Our courthouse is…. not beautiful.

The courthouse hosts 4 courts, the District Attorney, District and County Clerk, and the County Judge’s office. It is crowded and jury trials are difficult in the two smaller court rooms. Kaufman is growing and expansion is going to become a necessity.

Save Downtown Kaufman
Beyond dispensing justice and solving legal problems the Courthouse also sustains downtown Kaufman. The square is host to numerous law offices (including my office), retail, and restaurants. My favorite lunch stop on the square is Kudo’s.

Moving the courthouse would kill downtown. There are many buildings for sale on the square. I have often considering buying. The possibility of the courts moving is depressing downtown real estate values and deterring investors.

Some ideas
If town squares have value, then Kaufman’s is worth saving.

Plan 1-
I propose that the county purchase some of the empty buildings on the square and relocate some non court offices. Or, buy the land northwest of the courthouse and build a new courts building there. Maybe make one court building for county courts/clerk and one for district courts/clerk.

Plan two-
Create criminal courts and move those next to the jail. That would cut down on transportation costs for prisoners and leave the courthouse open downtown.

Plan 3-
Legalize drugs. This would reduce the need for more jails and court rooms and increase sales tax revenue. A win/win. I’m not sure if our county commisioner’s would support this plan.


7 responses to “A New Kaufman County Courthouse?”

  1. <img src="http://www.blogger.c says:

    I don’t think having lawyers on the square is going to envigorate your square. Getting lawyers off the square and bringing in businesses to occupy those premises would be better. Businesses bring customers, locals and tourists alike. I would point you to Marshall, Texas and Jefferson, Texas as examples.

  2. <img src="http://www.blogge says:

    I haven’t been to those squares. The lawyers here take up office space and have employees, support staff etc. Kaufman does not have the demand or traffic to support business without law offices. We have empty buildings as it is now.The Waxahachie square is a good example of a lawyer-retail mix.Good points though.

  3. <img src="http://www.blogge says:

    Robert,I could be wrong here, but I believe the plan is to move criminal cases to courts in a new facility by the jail, but leave civil cases to be tried in the courthouse thereby keeping the courthouse relevant. Of course, plans always change, but that is one thing I’ve been told.

  4. <img src="http://www.blogge says:

    Michael,Thanks for reading. Where is “the plan”? I’ve hear some rumors but I would like to see any specific proposals.I like the idea of moving criminal courts to the jail and keeping the civil courts here. It would be a great strategy. RG

  5. <img src="http://www.blogge says:

    Robert,You make a good point and one I hope county officials remember played a role in their downfall last time they sought bond funds for this issue. Without a solid, readily available plan in place for taxpayers to get their hands on and their minds around, talk of a new justice center will remain just that — talk.

  6. <img src="http://www.blogge says:

    I happened to be sitting there Tuesday when Judge Gent told Ms. Holloway his preference would be to have criminal matters heard in a court building connected to the jail on US175, and retain civil matters here on the square. The difference between “hearing criminal cases” and having a designated criminal court is more than just semantics (if any non-lawyers really care I’ll be happy to explain), and I believe we should have headed in that direction when we created our second district court and county court at law.This plan would leave a functioning courthouse which would generate foot traffic mostly for records and filings with an occasional jury trial. You would free up at least two courtrooms, move the district attorney’s office and could move roughly half of the county and district clerk employees. Probably not a bad idea.Robert, like you I am a little biased because I still own real estate associated with the courthouse and want a good return on my investment. The theory has been advanced (not by me) that the only way to save the square is to kill it. The theory being that it would drive down property values to the point that purchasing and remodeling them could be done at a cost-effective level. Eventually, they would reopen as shops, eateries, etc. I don’t know if this theory holds water, but it’s a thought.Another thing, and I’m not the expert on what the rules are here, but the triangle on which the former jail is located at HWY34 and FM1388 is bound to be one of the most prized pieces of dirt in Kaufman over the next several years, especially if TXDOT moves its facility making a retial center bisected by two highways possible. I’d be curious how much the county could fetch by selling that parcel and then dedicate the procedes to offset construction costs on a new criminal courts builing.What do ya’ll think?

  7. <img src="http://www.blogge says:

    AHJ,Great stuff. I wonder where why bigger media outlets don’t report this stuff. I can see how moving the courthouse may open up new lower margin options on the square. However, it would be a disaster for the current owners. That triangle you talked about is the future. Kaufman is last county seat around Dallas to escape serious growth. I still wonder why no real plans exist. I would file an open records request if I knew what to ask for, and who to ask.Thanks for reading,RG

Contact Information