A couple of years ago, we wrote about the Dallas County Commissioners’ Court’s failure to adequately fund the Dallas Probate Courts. We pointed out that some of these courts do not even have the ability to send a fax, make a long-distance phone call, or have a copier in the court offices when the Probate Courts in other counties have offices that are fully-equipped to function in the modern-era with copiers, fax machines, scanners, long-distance, etc.
Since that last blog post, not much has changed in Dallas County. The Commissioners’ Court continues to under-fund the Probate Courts. The most recent example of this problem came to light recently as we were working on a simple, uncontested guardianship where an adult son was trying to become his father’s guardian because of the father’s increasing alzheimer’s.
Under the Texas Government Code, every statutory Probate Court in the state is required, by law, to have a court investigator. The Court Investigator’s role is to go out and investigate each potential guardianship case and to make a recommendation to the Court as to whether it appears that there needs to be a guardianship created. The Court Investigator’s investigation and report is the very first step in a guardianship case, and until they have performed their duties, the case cannot proceed. Delaying the investigation often means delaying the ability to appoint someone to look out after the interests of an incapacitated elderly adult who cannot care for themselves any longer. The overwhelming majority of these cases deal with guardians for the elderly.
Over the last few months, 2 of the Dallas Court Investigators have quit, and because the Dallas Commissions have instituted a hiring freeze, the Probate Courts have not been able to replace these two positions. As a result, the 3 Probate Courts have been sharing one Investigator for several months now, resulting in incredible delays in creating guardianships. While the normal investigation should take no more than 10 days, we have been waiting 4 months for the Investigator to do the investigation in our case.
Because the Legislature placed such a high importance on the role of the Court Investigator, the Government Code requires that the County hire these individuals, even if there is a hiring freeze in place. The County must fill these positions, but the Dallas Commissioners refuse to authorize the funds to hire them for Dallas County – in violation of very clear best interests of the citizens of Dallas County.
Every citizen of Dallas County should be completely outraged at the Commissioners’ inaction. Their failure to fill these critical court investigator positions has put the elderly incapacitated individuals in Dallas at risk of abuse and/or neglect.