Honorable Judge Margaret G. Mirabal issued her final judgment on a pending civil case against Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra.
According to the court documents, the final judgment was issued for Nathan Kaspar vs. Ruben Becerra on October 15 and submitted to the parties and their legal representatives on October 19.
Judge Mirabal formally denied Kaspar’s petition for removal from office under Texas Local Government Code Section 87.016.
The order, which can be viewed below in full, states, “The court concludes that, as a matter of law, this case does NOT involve a ‘clearly defined duty or obligation’ as required by Texas Law for Removal of a County Officer from office. Accordingly, the defendant’s removal from office is not justified, as a matter of law.”
According to the analysis, the April 2019 Texas Legislative Budget Board Staff Report acknowledges that “Judicial Functions are not defined in statute or administrative rules. Without an explicit definition, it is difficult to determine compliance with the salary supplement criteria.”
However, Becerra is still under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Rangers.
Judge Mirabal is a retired judge of the First Court of Appeals, who takes cases in the 274th District Court when the need arises.
The lawsuit alleged Becerra accepted at least $50,000 in consecutive years (2019 and 2020) from taxpayers for work and services he did not provide.
In the State of Texas under the Texas Government Code Section 26.006, a “County Judge is entitled to an annual salary supplement from the state in an amount equal to 18 percent of the state base salary paid to a district judge as set by the General Appropriations Act in accordance with Section 659.012(a) if at least 40 percent of the functions that the judge performs are judicial functions.”
To receive the stipend, the law requires a county judge to file an affidavit stating that at least 40 percent, at least two days per week, of the functions he or she performs are judicial functions.
According to an opinion issued in 2016 from the Texas Attorney General’s Office, a judicial function of a county judge is “exercising criminal or civil jurisdiction as authorized by Chapter 26 of the Government Code.”
A descriptive summary of the Texas Court System issued by the State of Texas establishes a county judge has the following jurisdictions:
- Concurrent jurisdiction with justice courts in civil cases where the matter in controversy exceeds $200 but does not exceed $10,000;
- Concurrent jurisdiction with the district courts in civil cases where the matter in controversy exceeds $500 but does not exceed $5,000;
- General jurisdiction over probate cases;
- Juvenile jurisdiction;
- Exclusive original jurisdiction over misdemeanors, other than those involving official misconduct where punishment for the offense is by a fine exceeding $500 or jail sentences not to exceed one year;
- County courts generally have appellate jurisdiction over cases tried initially been in the justice and municipal courts.
The lawsuit alleged Becerra “has never done any of these things or performed any of these judicial functions” since taking office in Jan. 2019.
However, Judge Mirabal’s order states that “the Attorney General specifically noted that the Legislature has not expressly defined the phrase ‘judicial function’ as used in Government Code Section 26.006.”20-2040 Final Judgment Order Becerra
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