Discussions about a judicial transparency report that El Paso county commissioners have been pushing have gotten heated at times. Sparks flew Monday as commissioners tried to move forward with the report on how the county’s courts perform, but the county’s judges cried foul.
ABC-7 spoke with commissioners and judges to find out more about why a seemingly simple concept – better measuring how courts perform – is causing such controversy.
Both sides have said they’re on board with the goal of making data on what the courts actually do more accessible to taxpayers, but judges say the way the county is going about creating the report is all wrong.
41st District Court Judge Ana Perez spoke passionately before commissioners Monday, arguing that without judicial expertise guiding it, the study will be inherently flawed.
But Commissioner Vince Perez, a strong backer of the report, said that the study is part of a larger effort to bring accountability and transparency to all parts of the county, and that judges unhappy with greater scrutiny can’t stand in it’s way.
“We still have a duty to ensure that taxpayer money is being used as appropriately and as efficiently as possible,” Commissioner Perez said. “It’d be irresponsible otherwise if we just didn’t care, or said just do your own thing with the money that you get.”
Judge Perez counters that it’s not the scrutiny, but rather the bad metrics the county is using that’s the problem.
“We’re not concerned about looking bad,” Judge Perez said. “We’re concerned about our public having a misunderstanding of what the justice system is.”
Commissioners did decided to postpone the publication of the report another two weeks on Monday, pending draft printing and further review. And even though the county’s judiciary as a whole has threatened to stop participating in the report process entirely, some judges and commissioners have said they will try to work together to make it something that will be useful and both sides can agree on.