County Clerk appeals ruling granting Commissioners Court's plea to jurisdiction

David Yates Apr. 2, 2012, 11:42am


Jefferson County Clerk Carolyn Guidry has appealed a Beaumont judge's decision to grant a plea to the jurisdiction motion in her suit against the Commissioners Court and several county judges.

Last March, the Southeast Texas Record reported that Guidry filed suit against the Commissioners Court and Jefferson County Court-at-Law Judges Alfred Gerson, G.R. "Lupe" Flores and John Paul Davis, alleging the defendants undermined her constitutional authority by illegally promoting deputy clerks and giving them hefty raises.

Court records show that the defendants answered the suit and submitted a plea to the jurisdiction on April 6, 2011.

On Sept. 12 Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, granted the plea, ruling that the matter was moot, court papers say.

Seeking to reverse the judgment, Guidry filed an appeal with the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Beaumont on Oct. 11.

The case was set for submission on briefs on April 3, court papers say.

In her appellate brief, Guidry is questioning "whether the plea to the jurisdiction was granted in error, given the existence of a jurisdictional fact issue involving the continuing dispute over control of deputy county clerks between the county clerk and court-at-law judges."

Conversely, the defendants argue no controversy existed when Guidry filed her suit because she had resolved the conflict by withdrawing her deputization of employees, appellate briefs state.

The original petition states that 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."

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

According to the complaint, during 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 no 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."

Court records show Guidry withdrew the deputization of the court coordinators on Oct. 1, 2010, resulting in her current staff having to pick up the slack and file county court-at-law paperwork as well as attend hearings and trials.

"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.

Waco attorney David Schleicher represents Guidry.

District Attorney Tom Maness represents the defendants.

Case No. E189-597

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