County Judge Loyd Neal last week presented a proposal for the redistricting of existing Justice of the Peace boundaries that would leave a rural judge in office for 12 months in order to see if the court’s caseload could be increased.
The county was considering the closure of the office for Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 2 Hermilo Pena Jr. because his court has the lowest caseload of all Justices of the Peace. But Neal’s plan gives Pena the chance to increase the number of cases over the next 12 months in order to justify leaving the office, located in Agua Dulce, open.
However, Neal’s proposal also calls for reducing Pena’s staff from three full-time employees to one full-time and one part-time employee.
“I’m going to give them every opportunity to make this work with some staff modifications,” he said.
Pena, who was joined by residents from the rural areas of Nueces County at the Aug. 31 meeting in voicing their opposition to his office’s closure, said he was glad Neal was no longer looking to eliminate his court and move it to Robstown. However, he criticized the county judge’s plan because it cut staffing levels in Pena’s office.
“I don’t see the balance — it’s just not possible,” Pena said. “He’s asking me to create a miracle. He is curtailing my ability to do my job effectively.”
Neal’s proposal would shift five voting precincts around, but would also involve staff readjustments at other Justice of the Peace courts. A final vote on the proposal will likely take place at the commissioners’ Sept. 14 meeting, Neal said.