Texas bill named after attacked judge approved by panel

Travis County SWAT stands by as the Judge continues to get welcome back hugs. (KXAN Photo/ Frank Martinez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A terrifying moment for a local judge could lead to a new law aimed at improving courtroom security. Monday, the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act (Senate Bill 42) passed the Senate State Affairs Committee and now heads to the full Senate.

Travis County Judge Julie Kocurek spent more than a month in the hospital after being shot in her driveway in late 2015.

The act requires security plans and training in each federal, state and local courtroom. It also mandates personal security for a threatened judge and redacts the address of a judge or their spouse in public records.

After Kocurek’s attack, the Office of Court Administration sent a survey to all judges across the state and two-thirds of them said they did not have a security plan and the court didn’t provide security training.

The bill authored by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would also require every courthouse — no matter the size — to have a certified security officer.

This bill has the support of the Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht. He called for it in this year’s “State of the Judiciary” speech.

In Kocurek’s case, Travis County officials said they knew about the threat but did not inform Kocurek. Search warrants showed officials were warned two weeks prior to the shooting that someone was planning to kill an unnamed Travis County judge. Kocurek says while the threat did not mention her by name but the name of the suspect, Chimene Onyeri, was someone who had been in her courtroom several times before.

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