Senate passes security bill named for Judge Kocurek


Highlights

The bill would require better security training and allow DPS to provide personal protection for judges.

The unsuccessful assassination attempt of state District Judge Julie Kocurek inspired the proposed changes.

The Texas Senate on Tuesday approved legislation to improve security for courthouses and judges that was named for state District Judge Julie Kocurek, who survived a 2015 assassination attempt in the driveway of her West Austin home.

Afterward, senators unanimously approved a resolution commending her son, Will, “for his bravery and quick thinking in the face of mortal danger” when he stepped between the would-be assassin and his mother on the night of the attack.

Senate Resolution 575 also praised Julie Kocurek for returning to the bench, despite 26 surgeries, because “she was determined to show that the administration of justice would not be hindered by violence.”

Last week during a Capitol hearing, Will Kocurek, 17, told senators that he was outside their vehicle, removing a bag of trash that the gunman had placed in the driveway, when a masked man appeared out of the darkness. Realizing the target was his mother, who was sitting in the passenger seat, the teen stood in front her, forcing the gunman to run around the vehicle and fire through the driver’s side window.

“He showed himself to be selfless, showed himself to be brave — someone who could think quickly,” said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, author of the resolution.

The Senate also presented Will Kocurek with the gavel used to signal passage of the resolution and the security bill.

The shooting prompted an examination of judicial security that identified several shortcomings and resulted in Senate Bill 42, also known as the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act, which was sent to the House on Tuesday’s 26-5 vote.

The bill would require that judges and courthouse employees receive enhanced security training that would be paid for with a $5 increase to civil court filing fees.

SB 42 also would:

• Create a state director of security and emergency preparedness devoted to the judicial branch.

• Remove from publicly available government databases the home addresses and other personal information for state and federal judges and their spouses.

• Allow law officers, including Department of Public Safety personnel, to provide personal security for judges anywhere in the state.

“The attack on Judge Kocurek was not only an assault on our judicial system, but also a wake-up call to improve security for all judges and courthouses in our state,” said state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, author of the bill.

Nearly identical legislation, House Bill 1487, has had no action since a House committee hearing three weeks ago.



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