Travis County creates Community Legal Services Division for ‘more fair and equitable’ legal system

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Travis County Commissioners Court voted on July 25 to create two new departments that will comprise a new “Community Legal Services Division,” according to a press release from the Commissioners Court.

The two new departments are the Community Legal Services department and the Data, Policy and Performance Management department. The former will expand public defenders and work to ensure defendants have legal counsel during their first appearance in court. The latter will study how the county handles diversion, workforce development and reentry efforts.

“The Commissioners Court and I are committed to providing robust and effective criminal legal representation,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown in the release. “The creation of these two Departments will help the county provide the highest quality services to our community and make sure we are investing in what works – from evaluating the effectiveness of program investments to building out a holistic defense model, connecting people with resources they need to thrive in our community, and stopping the revolving door that is our current criminal legal system.”

The move also includes testing a virtual first appearance that would allow counsel to be present at a defendant’s first hearing, which county leaders hope will keep the legal process moving for inmates.

“It is essential for everyone in Travis County to have access to a criminal justice system that prioritizes effective legal representation,” said Jeff Travillion, Travis County Commissioner for Precinct 1, in the release. “Our vote today will help deliver more equitable outcomes for all who go through our legal system and improve data collection to help us analyze the effectiveness of our diversion efforts.”

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