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In Chambers

| Fall 2016 19

HowOne CountyMade a

Bit of Judicial History

By Judges Don Metcalfe and John Marshall

A number of factors

came together in

Dallas County at a

particular moment

forming a perfect

storm of progress.”

Judge John Marshall

Judge Don Metcalfe


oday Texas judges have computers, software,

court coordinators, and possibly, briefing at-

torneys, magistrates, or associate judges. In

1970 a judge had a clerk and a court reporter.

What happened?

A number of factors came together in Dallas Coun-

ty at a particular moment forming a perfect storm of

progress. The County Commissioners Court came to

realize that it was cheaper to infuse courts with col-

lateral aids than to pay for the creation of new courts.

The federal government was willing to put money into

improvement of state criminal justice systems. There

was a Dallas County auditor who knew how to deal

with Commissioners Court. And then a judge came

along who had the foresight and stamina to put all the

pieces together.

In 1968, James B. Zimmermann was appointed to serve

as Judge of Criminal District Court 3, Dallas County. He

attended courses at the National Judicial College in Reno

where he learned about the Law Enforcement Assistance

Administration (LEAA). This federal agency made grants

available to states to improve the criminal justice system,

via police, prosecutors and courts.

Dallas County Commis-

sioners were beginning to

feel the financial pinch of

an increased jail popula-

tion, both in terms of op-

erational costs, and poten-

tial construction of new jail

facilities.The Commission-

ers to a great extent relied

on the counsel of county

auditor George Smith, an

extremely knowledgeable

and perceptive individual.

With the auditor’s effort at securing the support of

the Commissioners, and with LEAA willing to put grant

money into criminal justice improvements, Judge Zim-

mermann set about to effect changes in the county’s

criminal justice system.

With a grant from LEAA in place, Judge Zimmermann,

Assistant District Attorney Jim Barklow and a software

programmer, developed a computer program for track-

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