Travis County to get new department set on easing access to ‘effective legal representation’

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Travis County Commissioners Court voted Tuesday to create a new holistic defense Community Legal Services (CSL) department.

The court said it voted to approve the job description for the county executive for the new CLS department and created a new county executive for Data, Policy and Performance Management from the former Justice & Public Safety Department.

“Tuesday’s action is a significant step towards a more fair and equitable criminal legal system – driving action to implement counsel at first appearance, supporting growth of public defender’s office, and implementing and improving diversion efforts,” the court said.

Travis County officials said the approval came after a months-long process that engaged the community to receive feedback and develop the descriptions, responsibilities and offices managed by the newly approved positions.

“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, Pct 1. “Our vote [Tuesday] 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.”

The court said the Community Legal Services department would include:

  • Chief Public Defender
  • Juvenile Public Defender
  • Mental Health Public Defender
  • Law Library
  • Office of Child Representation
  • Office of Parent Representation

The new Data, Policy, and Performance Management department would include:

  • Data, Research & Planning
  • Workforce development/reentry programs
  • Counseling & Education Services

The court said the next steps would include a robust recruitment and hiring process that directly engages the community.

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