Lazy? Oversight? Moronic? Red Tape? (a few words that crossed my mind while driving to the Williamson County Jail)

So tonight, I found myself having to work through more of the bureaucratic red-tape that is caused by either the lack of communication, poor training, disorganization, laziness or simply the complete ineptitude by some but not all of the people working in the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. 

The background:

At approximately 3:45 to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, February 13, 2009, I spoke with a client and signed a waiver of magistration to speed up the time of her release from custody in the Williamson County Jail.  She was arrested earlier this date on a warrant with a bond already set by a different judge.  I completed the form that the jail staff provided me and submitted it to one of the jail staff supervisors.  The Waiver was accepted.  The time was now approximately 4:30-4:45 p.m.  I left the jail and spoke with the client’s relative who had hired me on her behalf.  In addition, the surety bond itself was posted almost simultaneously to this by a local bonding company.  The client should be released anytime now that these documents were in place.

The result:

At 10:25 p.m. (approximately 6 hours later) I receive a call from the bonding company saying there is a problem with the client’s release because "they" (Williamson County Jail) did not have a copy of my bar card with the Waiver.  I called the jail and spoke with the Sgt. working at that time and was told that they must have the bar card with it.  I explained that it had been filed by a Lt. on a previous release, but this Sgt. said that was not sufficient, that it must be with this Waiver.  I asked the Sgt. if she could copy it from a prior file that I turned in on a different client on February 12.  I was told no because that does not verify my identity.  I then asked if it could be pulled from the State Bar of Texas website, where the State of Texas maintains my record as an attorney.  Again, I was told "no".  Then, I was told that if I wanted to wait and discuss the matter with the Lt. or another supervisor, I was free to do that but that the client would not be released without a copy of my bar card.  Of course, I got out of bed and made a special trip back to Georgetown to fulfill this "request".

My opinion:

Granted, we all have opinions and thus they are not necessarily worth anything.  However, I was completely appalled by this entire process for a number of reasons:

  1. This information (bar card information) is on file with the Sheriff’s Department in a rolodex at the front desk (taken by the Lt. I referenced);
  2. This information is available on the Internet, which I provided the link to above and offered to the Sgt. (and given the countless hours that County employees spend surfing the internet when they should be working, this "required information" could have been pulled and put with the Waiver, if it is so important);
  3. Most importantly, the Waiver was accepted when I turned it in … no one told me that they needed my bar card again (previously filed and even checked when I entered the jail on this date, so they knew I was an attorney);
  4. Probably of less importance, but I worked at the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office from October, 2005 until June, 2008 (granted I doubt everyone knows that or cares, but I know that I am in the County computer system);
  5. This was probably just a passive aggressive act to hold the client in jail a few hours longer… afterall, why on earth did it take until 10:25 p.m. for me to even get a call about this "error"?

My plea to anyone with an interest in changing Williamson County:

  1. Start paying attention to things that happen here;
  2. VOTE (for anyone who runs against the elected members of this monopolized, disfunctional machine);
  3. Take note of stories like this and remember them … it is only a matter of time until something happens to every one of us (directly or indirectly);
  4. Question why it took so long to process this release when the documents were submitted before 5:00 p.m.;
  5. Respond to my blog … let’s really start a discussion here (I am still incensed by the lack of professionalism, communication, and integrity that pervades the very core of the Williamson County Criminal Justice System and so should every person who resides in that County… unless you are part of the problem rather than the solution).

I purposely omitted names of the parties and other entities involved, as there is no reason for me to name them individually, however, the ranks of the people I spoke with were accurate and gender was purposely excluded.  As a criminal defense attorney who regularly defends people accused of crimes in Williamson County, Texas, I see a direct need for getting that system to change, as it is overrun with problems just like this on so many levels and with a very few exceptions, most people are not willing to speak against it to urge that Change come to this place.