8th Regional Presiding Judge David Evans administered the oath Feb. 13 ushering in a new court, and judge, in Johnson County.
The Texas Legislature created the Child Protection Service Court, which handles cases from Johnson, Hood, Somervell, Bosque, Palo Pinto, Erath and Eastland counties.
Although such courts exist in other parts of the state, the concept is new for Johnson and participating counties. Where Johnson County’s three district and two county courts at law previously allocated Department of Family and Protective Services cases among themselves, the Child Protection Court now fields the majority of such cases.
Evans in January chose former Johnson County Assistant Attorney David Barkley as the newly created court’s first Child Protective Court associate judge.
The court deals strictly with situations in which children have been removed from their parents or guardians by the state. Barkley was well versed in such situations having handled CPS cases during his time with the county attorney’s office.
Evans, 413th District Judge Bill Bosworth said, worked with Johnson and the other participating counties for at least six years trying to get a Child Protection Court established.
“It’s going to make a phenomenal difference for Johnson County to have Judge Barkley sit and listen to all the CPS cases in one court,” Bosworth said during Barkley’s swearing-in ceremony. “Which will allow the rest of the courts to work on [civil and criminal cases] that are stacked up.”
10th Court of Appeals Justice John Neill, formerly the 18th District Court judge, noted that Barkley’s decisions as judge will greatly impact the lives of abused and neglected children in calling Barkley the right person for the job.
COVID-19 threw a wrench in many day-to-day court functions shortly after Barkley took the bench. Undaunted, he has since held hearings via Zoom. Although he oversees CPS cases in several counties, Barkley maintains his office at the Guinn Justice Center in Johnson County.
— Matt Smith