There are even more changes are on the way for the Judge R.C. Vaughan County Law Library at the Grayson County courthouse in Sherman.
This week, county commissioners approved a salary order for a new position at the county that will greatly impact the law library. The position is a combination of jobs and might hold the record for the longest job title at the county level.
Grayson County Judge Bill Magers said the position will be a great help to him as probates in the county continue to rise with its rising population. The position now known as the Probate-Mental Health-Law Library-Records Management Administrator will combine the probate clerk’s position and the law librarian position.
Longtime Grayson County Clerk Office Manager Tera Norris will fill the position.
Magers said the changes were made without impacting the county’s budget or increasing the staff headcount by taking advantage of technology and good use of current talent at the county level.
The law library had been under the umbrella of the District Attorney’s Office for many years. Recently, the commissioners court voted to return it to their domain.
The law library provides specialized legal reference resources for the legal community, litigants and residents of Grayson County. It was established in 1940 and is funded through money received from filing fees, user fees and donations. The library is currently closed to the public. When not closed, the public could access access the library Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m.
But now, that library can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the internet. The library, Magers said, will no longer have a physical presence in the way it has had before but it will continue to have a personal one in Norris who will be able to answer questions for people who needing help with the forms for simple legal actions like uncontested divorces and simple probates. The library also served as a source of legal references for those incarcerated at the Grayson County Jail. A recent contract with a phone vendor has allowed the Sheriff’s Office to provide those inmates with computerized tablets that can be used to access that information online without allowing unfettered access to the internet.
The library has been, for a number of years now, Magers said, more of a repository for such forms than a place for legal research as more and more of the bound volumes that once lined its walls moved to digital format. Now those forms can be printed straight from a computer without ever having to step into the courthouse. As has always been the case, the person in charge of the library is not an attorney and can not give legal advice. But she can point people in the right direction for divorce and probate forms.
Once housed just down the hall from the Grayson County District Attorney’s Office, the library has moved a number of times over the last decade. The first move took it across the street to the second floor of the Grayson County Courthouse where it welcomed folks in a spot between the two restored courtrooms on that floor. In that location, those who were using the library could look out over the towering oak trees that cover the courthouse lawn and watch the traffic go by on Houston Street.
The second move took it across the hall to a much smaller location. One reason behind the moves has been the continuing need for less space. Now that space on the second floor of the courthouse will serve as a conference room as the West Courtroom on that floor takes on a more active role in the age of COVID-19 required social distancing.
Magers said the county judicial system is trying to get back up to speed with regard to trials and the courtrooms at the Justice Center are just not big enough to allow for the required social distancing for larger events like the string of murder cases that are waiting to be tried. Like other counties in the country, Grayson County has had to reschedule larger trials during the ongoing pandemic, but continuing to do so is causing a back long of cases that the county has to start trying to clear. Having a space large enough to allow a full jury, as well as a full court staff and full staff for both prosecutors and defense attorneys is only possible in Grayson County at the county courthouse.
The two large courtrooms on the second floor can each seat hundred of people with towering ceilings and rows of church pews, the rooms provided adequate space for participants and an audience to be socially distanced. The East Courtroom, Magers said, currently is used by the Commissioners Court every Tuesday. It is also used as the courtroom for Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Larry Atherton.
The West courtroom, Magers said, it about to see an increase in traffic as trials move their from the three district courtrooms in the Justice Center. That move, he said, required space for attorneys to meet with their clients and is what the former law library will provide now.