Jefferson County Clerk sues Commissioners Court, alleges 'power grab'

David Yates Mar. 16, 2011, 7:44am


Jefferson County Clerk Carolyn Guidry is suing the Commissioners Court and several county judges, alleging the defendants undermined her constitutional authority by illegally promoting deputy clerks and giving them hefty raises.

The lawsuit, filed March 15 in Jefferson County District Court, also names county Judges Alfred Gerson, G.R. "Lupe" Flores and John Paul Davis as defendants.

According to the complaint, in the 2008-2009 budget year, several deputy clerks working in the Jefferson County courts-at-law were upgraded to the title of court coordinators with a pay increase of more than $7,800.

"Some of plaintiff's deputy clerks were illegally placed under the day-to-day direction of the court-at-law judges and put on the judges' payrolls," the suit states.

"This power grab – unique to Jefferson County – usurped the constitutional and statutory authority of the county clerk. The county court-at-law judges and the Commissioners Court disregarded plaintiff's informal attempts to get them to comply with the law."

Court records show that the practice of removing deputy clerks from the county clerk's payroll to work in the courts-at-law first began in 1999.

At a July 20, 2010, budget workshop, County Judge Jeff Branick asked Guidry whether un-deputizing the court coordinators would leave her understaffed.

Guidry "responded that it would," the suit states.

"Mr. Branick replied that she had a choice of whether or not to maintain the court coordinators as deputy clerks. In other words, plaintiff was given no choice as to whether or not the court coordinators would continue to receive day-to-day supervision from the county court-at-law judges and remain on their payrolls."

Guidry withdrew the deputization of the court coordinators on Oct. 1, resulting in her current staff having to pick up the slack and file county court-at-law paperwork and be present at hearings and trials, court papers say.

"By refusing to provide funds to replace the staff lost following the un-deputizing ... the Commissioners Court punished plaintiff for refusing to accept the illegal arrangement under which judges controlled the work of deputy clerks," the suit states.

Guidry is seeking a declaratory judgment finding that it is a violation of Texas Law for the deputy clerk attending to the Jefferson County Court-at-Law No. 1 to not be paid out of general funds, and also that the Commissioners Court abused its discretion.

Waco attorney David Schleicher is representing her.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, has been assigned to the case.

The county has not yet responded to the suit.

Case No. E189-597

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