394th District Court Judge Roy Ferguson is instituting another historic change to the Far West Texas justice system. Patricia Reid, long-time official court reporter, retired last month after nineteen years of service to Judges Kenneth DeHart and Ferguson. The search for a replacement would likely be hampered by the state-wide shortage of court reporters. “District courts across the state are struggling to find court reporters,” said Ferguson. “Our remoteness and small county budgets make enticing a qualified candidate extremely difficult.”
Rather than seeking a replacement, with the help of the Texas Office of Court Administration, Ferguson obtained the approval of the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals to implement a technological alternative. On December 10, 2019, the Court moved to a cloud-based digital recording system. High-quality microphones record court proceedings and transmit the recordings via the Internet for certification and storage. Transcripts are remotely generated as needed. Ferguson estimates that moving to the new system will save the counties roughly $100,000 per year. About $24,000 per year for Culberson County.
Although many other states have made the transition, the 394th District Court is the first district court in Texas to move to a purely digital system. “Court will feel different without Ms. Reid at my side,” Ferguson said, “but I’m excited about once again implementing cutting-edge technology to further improve the quality of justice across west Texas, and save taxpayer dollars in the process.” The 394th District Court serves Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis and Presidio Counties. Ferguson is unopposed in 2020 in seeking a third term as district judge.