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Oct 9, 2015 
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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Oct 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm
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Oct 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm
John H. Reagan Building
105 W 15th St., 
Room 131
Austin TX 78701

Oct 23, 2015 
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Texas Association of Counties - 4th Floor
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September 2015 
News From the Office of Court Administration
Texas Recognized for Reporting Excellence
Texas received a Reporting Excellence Award from the Court Statistics Project, a joint project of the National Center for State Courts and the Conference of State Court Administrators that publishes caseload data from the courts of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and the territories. The award recognizes states that have taken the time and applied the resources necessary to improve the quantity or quality of their reported caseload data. Texas is one of only 6 states to receive the award this year.
OCA's Judicial Information section, on behalf of the Texas Judicial Council, is responsible for collecting caseload data from all the courts in the state. The court activity data are published in the Annual Statistical Reports for the Texas Judiciary, which also examines trends in that data. The monthly report data are also available to the public from September 1992 to the present from the Court Activity Reporting and Directory database.
Texas Judicial Council - Did You Know?
The Texas Judicial Council was created in 1929. One of the primary functions of Judicial Council since its inception has been to collect statistics and other information from the courts. The Council has published court statistics since 1930, and OCA maintains copies of the historical records from 1930 to the present.
The Supreme Court recently achieved a major milestone by clearing all of its undecided, argued cases before the end of its term. By researching the information in its archives, OCA was able to confirm that this feat had not been accomplished in at least 75 years! (The last comparable records available were for 1942.) 
Research Spotlight - Pretrial Release
The Pretrial Justice Institute defines pretrial conditional release as "any form of release in which the defendant is required to comply with specific conditions set by the court, which can be financial, nonfinancial, or both." The Texas Judicial Council's Criminal Justice Committee is charged with assessing the impact of pretrial criminal justice statutes and policies to identify judicial policies or initiatives that can enhance public safety and social outcome goals. The following resources may be helpful to courts and court staff in gaining an understanding of the complexities of this topic and in the development of system responses to address local needs. 

The Conference of State Court Administrators advocates that court leaders promote, collaborate toward, and adopt evidence-based assessment of risk in setting pretrial release conditions. This policy paper provides an overview of the right to bail, the implications of pretrial release versus incarceration, and the value of evidenced-based risk assessment.

Public Safety Assessment - Court, a recently developed data-driven approach to assessing risk, is assisting judges throughout the state of Kentucky in making decisions that better protect the public and more effectively use scarce criminal justice resources. This report summarizes the impact of the program during it's the first six months of its use. 

This paper provides a historical context of pretrial release issues, holds up current processes to national pretrial best-practice standards, and shows how recent research on pretrial release issues can be used by judges to make definitive "in-or-out" decisions.

This monograph offers pretrial release related performance measures that can be used to assess program effectiveness and assist in pretrial program planning. The document defines performance measures and discusses the data needed to track compliance with them. 
For additional information on these or other research topics of interest please contact OCA's Scott Griffith, Director of Research and Court Services, or Amanda Stites, Research Specialist at (512) 463-1625.
eFiling Available Statewide
Civil eFiling is now available in all 254 counties in Texas. This monumental achievement was completed more than 9 months ahead of schedule. The next mandate for civil eFiling occurs on January 1, 2016, for counties with a population over 50,000 and then goes statewide on July 1, 2016.

A special thanks to the district and county clerks who have moved mountains (of paper) to make this happen. Texas is firmly ahead of all the other states, or at least the ones with a decentralized judiciary, when it comes to eFiling. 
Criminal eFiling Begins
Hidalgo County successfully began to allow criminal eFiling on September 1. The go live was very smooth, and the eFileTexas team is now working with more than 40 counties to bring criminal eFiling live in those jurisdictions. At the same time, the Court of Criminal Appeals is working to finalize statewide criminal eFiling rules ahead of the launch date of the next group of counties. If your county is interested in adding criminal eFiling, contact Casey Kennedy at
Judicial Committee on Information Technology Updates Technology Standards
The Judicial Committee on Information Technology (JCIT) met on August 8th. The Committee adopted version 2.5 of the Technology Standards which makes minor modifications to the eFiling codes. The group also discussed the eFiling program, upcoming criminal eFiling, guide and file as well as the public access portal. Both guide and file and the public access portal have many policy issues to be discussed prior to implementing.

JCIT's next public meeting is October 25, 2015, at the Texas Association of Counties (1210 San Antonio St, Austin). The meeting is open to the public.
Judicial Bypass Case Reporting Changing on January 1
Judicial bypass refers to cases in which a pregnant minor may file an application for a court order authorizing the minor to consent to the performance of an abortion without notification to and consent of a parent, managing conservator, or guardian. House Bill 3994, effective January 1, 2016, requires the clerk of the court with jurisdiction over judicial bypass cases to report information on these cases to OCA.

Information on judicial bypass cases must be submitted no later than 20 days following the end of the month in which the judgment was entered. For example, cases in which a judgment was entered in January must be reported by February 20. According to the statute the following information must be reported for each judicial bypass case:
  1. Case number and style
  2. Applicant's county of residence
  3. Court of appeals district in which the proceeding occurred
  4. Date of filing
  5. Date of disposition
  6. Disposition of the case
A report submitted under Section 33.003(l-1) is confidential and privileged and is not subject to disclosure under Chapter 552, Government Code, or to discovery, subpoena, or other legal process. The report will be submitted through the Court Activity Reporting Database (CARD) in the same manner as the monthly court activity report or the monthly appointments and fees report.

More information on the required reporting will be distributed to clerks later this fall.

What: Cases in which a pregnant minor files an application for a court order authorizing the minor to consent to the performance of an abortion without notification to and consent of a parent, managing conservator, or guardian.  These cases are defined as "judicial bypass cases."

Who: District Clerks and County Clerks must report these cases to OCA.

When: Beginning January 1, 2016, information on judicial bypass cases must be submitted no later than 20 days following the end of the month in which the judgment was entered.

Why: Required by Section 33.003 of the Texas Family Code as amended by House Bill 3994 of the 84th Legislature

OCA is required to annually compile and publish a report showing the number of cases filed by court of appeals district and which must include summary statistics on the disposition of bypass cases. Please contact OCA's Judicial Information Section at or 512-463-1625 for questions about the new judicial bypass case reporting requirements.
Judicial Information Updates Information About Courts
With the start of the new fiscal year and the implementation of laws creating new courts, a number of updates have been made to the About Texas Courts webpage: 
  • Court Structure Chart: 5 district courts and 2 county courts at law have been created. The number of justice courts, on the other hand, decreased by 10 from the same time last year, continuing a long-term trend of counties consolidating justice courts.
  • Judge Profile: statistics on gender, ethnicity, length of service and years of experience as an attorney.
    Did you know that only 37% of the judges that you are most likely to meet in court (justice and municipal court judges) are lawyers? 
  • Complexities in the Geographic Jurisdiction of District Courts: categorizes district courts in terms of their geographical jurisdiction.
Staff have started working on the 2015 Annual Statistical Report, which is scheduled to be completed by January.
For the Defense: A New Mentorship Program
The Capital Area Private Defender Service ("CAPDS"), a newly created managed assigned counsel program in Travis County, launched their latest training initiative in July. The misdemeanor mentorship program is part of CAPDS' efforts to create a cultural shift within indigent defense services in Travis County by centering defense on the needs of clients while providing attorneys with needed skills and resources to support their defense. This training, made possible by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission through funding from the Office of the Governor's Criminal Justice Division, allowed 14 attorneys to receive in-house training from mentor attorneys geared towards substantive law and client-centered representation.

After establishing new standards to receive court assigned cases in Travis County, CAPDS faced a challenge in that talented attorneys, passionate about indigent defense, did not have a path onto their panels if they could not meet the trial experience requirements. To support its mission of improving indigent defense in Travis County, CAPDS developed a training curriculum and, after interviewing nearly 30 attorney-applicants, selected 14 attorneys from a wide-range of experiences and backgrounds for the mentorship program. The training itself was provided by nine experienced CAPDS attorneys who were chosen to be mentors. The mentor attorneys spent dozens of hours presenting informative lectures, breaking down local procedures, and offering practical advice on practicing criminal law in Travis County.

After completing this one week local training program, including client communication workshops, courthouse tours, a jail visit, and lectures from county departments, mentees attended a week of trial training in Dallas at the Center for American and International Law. CAPDS's mentees distinguished themselves during this intensive training week focusing on the skills attorneys need to be more effective in the courtroom. When asked about the quality of the training, the first mentee to respond wrote, "I can't imagine attempting to practice criminal law without this training. I learned in a week what would have taken a year of making mistakes to learn."

After completing the intensive training phase, mentees began receiving assigned cases in August. Working with their mentors, they will tackle all types of misdemeanor cases while being supported by experienced attorneys. In addition to case counseling, over the next six months mentor attorneys will meet with their mentees at least twelve times to discuss predetermined topics relevant to criminal defense. CAPDS mentees are already experiencing amazing success, and CAPDS will continue to study the performance of these attorneys. If successful, CAPDS hopes to offer the program once a year and expand it to provide intensive training for attorneys who want to handle tougher felony cases.

Mentees from left to right: Brent Burpee, Richard Estrada, Elizabeth Henneke, Tayarta Brown, Adam Alvarez, J. Deniz Kadirhan, Jackson Gorski, Amanda Morrison, Missy Franklin, Cierra Williams, Scott Ehlers, Emily Gerrick, Karen Oprea and Amy Lefkowitz.
Mentees from left to right: Brent Burpee, Richard Estrada, Elizabeth Henneke, Tayarta Brown, Adam Alvarez, J. Deniz Kadirhan, Jackson Gorski, Amanda Morrison, Missy Franklin, Cierra Williams, Scott Ehlers, Emily Gerrick, Karen Oprea and Amy Lefkowitz.
Mentors (not pictured) are Kellie Bailey, Robb Shepherd, Todd Dudley, Richard Segura, Selena Alvarenga, Nathaniel Williams, Raphael Hernandez, Gilbert Martinez, and Steven Brand.
The Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) recently awarded a two year grant for $313,308 to provide funding for the Willacy County Public Defender Office (WPDO). Willacy County is currently facing a financial crisis due to the termination of a large Federal Bureau of Prisons contract with the Willacy County Correctional Facility. The funds awarded in August will permit the county to continue operating the program for the next two years and will cover half the cost of operating the program. TIDC Chair, Judge Sharon Keller said, "This award was made possible thanks to the Legislature's appropriation of new General Revenue funding for indigent defense, as well as new authority provided to TIDC by the passage of SB 1057." That legislation addresses sustainability grants to support regional public defender programs. It was authored by Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa and was sponsored in the House by Commission member Representative Abel Herrero. Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., whose senate district includes Willacy County, said, "I'm pleased that the Commission has taken the initiative to implement SB 1057 in a way that will positively benefit counties that might otherwise struggle to provide effective indigent defense services." Senator Lucio added, "As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations, I look forward to working with the Commission and other agencies to help Texas better address the needs of our counties."
The WPDO was created in 2007 with grant funds from TIDC to represent poor people charged with crimes and has been instrumental in maintaining Willacy County's compliance with the Fair Defense Act. Willacy County Judge Aurelio Guerra said "Over the past eight years the public defender's office has become an invaluable part of the local indigent defense delivery system. We are grateful to TIDC for providing this funding because without it we would not be able to sustain the program."
The WPDO is operated by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) under a contract with Willacy County. The funds will be used to join the existing regional public defender program currently administered by Bee County, which also contracts with TRLA to serve as public defender in three counties: Bee, Live Oak, and McMullen. Chief Public Defender Abner Burnett added "Willacy County has wholeheartedly worked with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in an effort to comply with the standards of indigent defense set by the state. This has consistently been done without compromising either the responsibilities of the public defender on behalf the client or that of the district attorney on behalf of the State of Texas." 
Governor Greg Abbott has appointed David Perwin of Richmond as judge of the 505th Judicial District Court in Fort Bend County for a term set to expire at the next general election in November 2016. This appointment was effective Sept. 1, 2015.
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Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Susan Rankin of Dallas as judge of the 254th Judicial District Court in Dallas County for a term set to expire at the next general election in November 2016.
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Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Chad Bridges of Sugar Land as judge of the 240th Judicial District Court in Fort Bend County for a term set to expire at the next general election in November 2016.
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Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Piper McCraw of McKinney as judge of the 469th Judicial District Court in Collin County for a term to expire at the next general election in November 2016.
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Governor Greg Abbott has appointed Emily Miskel of Dallas as judge of the 470th Judicial District Court in Collin County for a term set to expire at the next general election in November 2016.
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Governor Greg Abbott has appointed John M. "Mike" Swanson as judge of the 143rd Judicial District Court, covering Loving, Reeves, and Ward Counties, for a term set to expire at the next general election in November 2016.
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JJDPA Reauthorization Legislation Approved by US Senate Committee
On July 23, 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Reauthorization Act (JJDPA) of 2015, S. 1169.  The bill was approved in a bipartisan effort by voice vote with no objections.  Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) jointly introduced the bill earlier this year. The last time the JJDPA was reauthorized was in 2002.  As such, the current JJDPA grant programs have been operating without an authorization since 2007. Supporters of the legislation believe that S. 1169 would strengthen the JJDPA's protections for youth in the juvenile justice system.

Key provisions of the bill include:
  • Phasing out the valid court order exception (VCO) for detaining youth charged with a status offense;
  • Extending the "sight and sound" protections to youth charged as an adult;
  • Screening for youth who have been victims or are potential victims for human trafficking;
  • Requiring states to consider ethnicity in addition to race when assessing and addressing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system;
  • Allowing for easier transfer and application of education credits earned for system-involved youth across school systems;
  • Encouraging the development of individualized case plans to help youth reenter their communities, including education and job-training assistance;
  • Encouraging states to ensure that programs and practices designed to address the needs of system-involved youth are both evidence-based and trauma-informed;
  • Promoting community-based alternatives to detention;
  • Encouraging family engagement in design and delivery of treatment and services;
  • Improving screening, diversion, assessment, and treatment for mental health and substance abuse needs;
  • Encouraging training facility staff to eliminate dangerous practices related to isolation and restraints in juvenile detention and corrections facilities;
  • Encouraging states to develop policies and procedures to eliminate the use of dangerous practices and unreasonable use of restraints and isolation through the use of alternative behavior management techniques;
  • Eliminating the use of restraints on pregnant girls in custody; and
  • Supporting state efforts to expand youth access to legal counsel and to inform youth of opportunities to seal or expunge juvenile records.
It is not clear when S. 1169 will be considered by the full Senate. 
US Senate Finance Committee Considering Child Welfare Legislation 
On August 4, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on foster care and alternatives to foster care placements. The hearing was entitled "Way Back Home: Preserving Families and Reducing the Need for Foster Care" and included testimony from five panelists representing state, kinship care, youth and parent perspectives.

Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stated in his opening remarks that he hoped that the Committee would mark-up child welfare legislation this fall. He again emphasized his concern over placements of children in group homes/congregate care.  He said, "I believe that we should do whatever we can to reduce the reliance on foster care group homes," but added .... "it is not sound public policy to work to reduce the reliance on group homes without addressing the need to support a family placement for children and youth currently in or at risk of entering one of these facilities."

The hearing coincided with Ranking Member Ron Wyden's (D-OR) introduction of his Family Stability and Kinship Care Act (S. 1964).  Senator Wyden introduced the bill the day after the hearing. In his opening remarks at the hearing, Senator Wyden reflected on past legislation in support of kinship care as an important alternative and said, "Now in 2015, I see an opportunity for Congress to go even further in helping kids thrive with kin. It begins with letting states run with fresh policies that will support families when they have fallen on hard times."

S. 1964 is the result of an earlier draft bill that Senator Wyden released in the spring for public feedback. The Senator stated that his "proposal would expand the federal foster care entitlement to do more than just pay a daily rate to keep children housed in foster care homes. Instead, states and tribes would be able to use foster care funds to provide families in crisis with the supports, services, and evidence-based interventions needed to keep their children safely at home and out of foster care."

The legislation would allow states to use Title IV-E funds for a limited amount of services for children who are considered "a candidate for foster care" (at imminent risk of entry into foster care). Federal reimbursement would be available for services without regard to the income of the child's biological parents. States would be able to provide up to 12 months of services to vulnerable families to prevent their placement into foster care or reentry into foster care following reunification. States would be required to develop a state plan on needed services. These services would support kin families or families who have adopted children.

Services covered under the legislation would include:
  • Parenting and family skills training and parent education;
  • Individual, group, and family counseling, mentoring, and therapy;
  • Services or assistance to address barriers to family preservation and reunification; and
  • Crisis assistance or services to stabilize families in times of crisis or facilitate kinship placement.
S. 1964 would also restore the Family Connections Grants, which expired in FY 2014.  
DOJ/HHS Guidance Issued to Child Welfare Agencies and Courts on the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act Requirements  
On August 10, 2015, the Civil Rights Divisions (OCRs) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) issued joint technical assistance (TA) to state and local child welfare agencies and courts on the requirements of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The TA document is intended to help child welfare agencies and family courts understand their obligations under Federal law to ensure that parents and prospective parents with disabilities receive equal treatment and equal access to parenting opportunities.

The following is an excerpt from the joint cover letter:

The goals of the child welfare and nondiscrimination laws are mutually attainable and complementary; for example, ensuring that parents and prospective parents have equal access to parenting opportunities without encountering artificial barriers posed by discrimination improves the lives of the children in their care. However, OCR and DOJ have determined that, in some cases, discriminatory barriers exist that have denied biological, foster, and adoptive parents and prospective parents an equal opportunity to benefit from protections and services offered to others in the child welfare system. They are thus joining with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to issue practical guidance to supplement their enforcement activities.

As a first step in this partnership, our agencies are issuing, and attaching to this letter, a technical assistance document that offers guidance and information about the intersection of federal child welfare requirements and federal disability law. This technical assistance responds to a general need for increased awareness by entities involved in child welfare regarding their legal obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Later this year, ACF, OCR, and DOJ will issue a second technical assistance document that will address the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in child welfare programs. That document will similarly provide guidance about how to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, information about OCR's and DOJ's enforcement work in this area, and resources to assist with compliance.

The TA document includes an overview of the federal requirements, a question-and-answer section, and a list of additional resources.
Federal Criminal Justice Reform Legislation 
A tremendous amount of momentum exists for meaningful criminal justice reform during this Congress.  A bipartisan group of 20 congressmen, led by Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) recently introduced the SAFE Justice Act (H.R. 2944), a bill that would implement major reforms across all areas of the federal criminal justice system, especially how the U.S. treats drug crimes. The legislation was inspired by the successes of states across the country.  The bill addresses a number of issues, from curtailing over-federalization and over-criminalization to reducing the burgeoning prison population. It would also make it more difficult for federal agencies to put criminal penalties in their regulations, would prioritize prison time for violent offenders, and invest in police relations and accountability. The bill is supported by groups as diverse as the Koch brothers and the American Civil Liberties Union.

In July 2015, the House of Representatives officially formed the Congressional Criminal Justice and Public Safety Caucus. President Obama is courting the support of Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, for criminal justice reform.  Senate Judiciary Committee staff have been working on the issue for months trying to bridge the various points of view.
State Department 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report 
The State Department recently released the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report.  The report, which categorizes countries using four levels (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2-Watch List and Tier 3), is a result of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA).  The report tracks human trafficking of persons of all ages through forced labor and sex trafficking. The U.S. assessed itself as a Tier I country, which is the top level and indicates full compliance with the TVPA's minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
The report found that both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals are victims of sex trafficking and forced labor and that the trafficking occurs in both legal and illicit business including commercial sex, hospitality, sales crews, agriculture, manufacturing, janitorial services, construction, shipyards, restaurants, health and elder care, salon services, fairs and carnivals, peddling and begging, and domestic service.

According to the report the most vulnerable populations included: "children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems; runaway and homeless youth; children working in agriculture; American Indians and Alaska Natives; migrant laborers; foreign national domestic workers in diplomatic households; employees of businesses in ethnic communities; populations with limited English proficiency; persons with disabilities; rural populations; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals."

The following are some of the recommendations for improvement in the U.S.:
  • Encourage the adoption of victim-centered policies at the state and local levels that ensure victims, including children, are not punished for crimes committed as a direct result of trafficking;
  • Support housing for child-trafficking victims that ensures their physical and mental health and safety;
  • Increase screening to identify trafficked persons among at-risk youth, detained individuals, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations;
  • Prosecute labor trafficking vigorously;
  • Seek input from survivors to improve training, programs, and policies;
  • Ensure that restitution is sought for trafficking victims;
  • Strengthen prevention efforts, including addressing the demand for commercial sex;
  • Engage in culturally based efforts to strengthen coordination among criminal justice and social service systems on behalf of Native American trafficking victims;
  • Increase training, including in the U.S. insular areas, on indicators of human trafficking and the victim-centered approach for criminal and juvenile justice officials, family court officials, labor inspectors, consular officers, social service and child welfare entities, and first responders; and
  • Support new research on trafficking as it relates to diplomats, military personnel, peacekeepers, and other forms of official complicity.  (Farley,
SMART Report on the Prosecution, Registration Alternatives for Juvenile Sex Offenders
The Office of Justice Programs' Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) released a report, "Prosecution, Transfer, and Registration of Serious Juvenile Sex Offenders." The report examines the systems of charging, adjudication, disposition, transfer, and/or sentencing that might apply to a serious juvenile sex offender.
OJJDP Bulletin Examines Deterrence Among High-Risk Adolescents
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) released "Studying Deterrence Among High-Risk Adolescents," the latest bulletin in the Pathways to Desistance series. The bulletin examines the link between perceptions of the threat of sanctions and deterrence from crime among high-risk adolescents. The authors' findings show that severe punishment-such as correctional placement or a longer stay in correctional placement-does not meaningfully reduce juvenile offending or arrests among these youth.  The findings are the result of the OJJDP cosponsored Pathways to Desistance study, which investigates the factors that lead serious juvenile offenders to cease or continue offending. 
Mapping LEP Populations
The Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division released several mapping resources to help identify the concentration of limited-English-proficiency (LEP) populations at the national, state, judicial district, and county levels.  The 2012 Language Map App allows users to view and download data from an interactive map.  The interactive maps provide data on the languages spoken by LEP populations at the state and county level for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.  Printable maps are located at and provide both the number and percentage of LEP individuals in each region. County and judicial district maps provide the top five languages spoken by LEP individuals within those areas in the form of detailed pie charts.  Lastly, other federal language-mapping tools can also be located at

Judicial Training Resource Links

About the OCA

OCA is a state agency in the judicial branch that operates under the direction and supervision of the Supreme Court of Texas and the chief justice and is governed primarily by Chapter 72 of the Texas Government Code.


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