Judge Blocks County’s Juvenile Docs Subpoena

Judge's gavel and legal documents in a courtroom on wooden table. | Image by ARMMY PICCA/Shutterstock

A request by two Dallas County officials to subpoena documents from the local juvenile detention center has been denied by a judge.

County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Andy Sommerman had tried to obtain observation sheets from the Dallas County Juvenile Department (DCJD). The sheets reportedly contain information on the daily activities and whereabouts of children in DCJD’s custody. However, DCJD subsequently sued, claiming the county officials lacked legal standing to subpoena “confidential information,” as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

District Judge Eric Moyé ruled in favor of the DCJD on Wednesday, stating that the Commissioners Court does not have legal standing to subpoena the observation sheets.

“This court makes a determination that the commissioner’s [sic] court has failed to show the requisite statutory authority to do precisely what it wants to do,” said Moyé, according to The Dallas Morning News. “The motion to compel is denied.”

Moyé asserted that Texas law gives commissioners the power to determine DCJD’s budget and open investigations but not obtain confidential documents pertaining to juvenile inmates.

“This court cannot amorphously create authority that doesn’t exist in the human resources code, the family code, or the local government code or any other code,” he said.

Sommerman, who spearheaded the effort to obtain the records, claimed that the observation sheets were needed to determine the DCJD’s budget and staff for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We’re here because the Dallas County Commissioners Court has a very important job to do, and we need information to do it,” argued Jennifer Richards, the attorney representing the Commissioners Court, according to Fox 4 KDFW.

However, attorneys representing DCJD maintained that the confidentiality of observation sheets is protected by state law, noting that the Dallas County Juvenile Board governs the DCJD, not the Commissioners Court.

“The juvenile board shall set policy, the juvenile board may investigate, the juvenile board may do any special studies, it never mentions the county commissioners, not once,” said attorney Frank Adler, who represented DCJD, per Fox 4.

Moyé concluded that the Commissioners Court “has not provided authority to this court that justifies the issuance and the execution supplied with its subpoena.”

“Therefore, the motion to compel is denied,” he said, according to Fox 4. “The juvenile board which has the authority they can raise whatever issues are appropriate with the board they can ask the board to do whatever investigations they deem necessary, and they continue to do so in the future.”

DCJD is currently under state investigation for allegations of child neglect, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

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