The Field Review - Local

Cameron County Sheriff Garza May Have Overstepped His Legal Authority

News traveled fast on April 14, 2021, that Sheriff Eric Garza was being sued by his own Commissioners Court.

The revelation was semi-stunning. It turns out Sheriff Garza cancelled a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Cameron County Constables from Precinct 2. The MOU was for courthouse security of the Cameron County Court System for the County Court’s at Law and the District Courts.

Full memorandum cancelling the MOU is provided below:

According to KRGV the following statement was made by Sheriff Garza:

By law, the sheriff is in charge of courthouse security,” Garza said. “Unfortunately, the previous administration was not taking care of that responsibility, so they made a contract with another law enforcement official.

The Texas Local Government Code Sec. 291.003. CONTROL OF COURTHOUSE states: “The county sheriff shall have charge and control of the county courthouse, subject to the regulations of the commissioners court.”

1987 Texas Legislation

The Code hasn’t changed since the 1987 Texas Legislature. Prior to 1987 and beginning in 1925, the statute read:

Sheriffs shall have charge and control of the courthouse of their respective counties, subject to such regulations as the commissioners court may prescribe.”

1925 Texas Legislation

What you may notice missing from both legislatures is the word “security.” Essentially, the law does not imply that the Sheriff’s Office shall provide courthouse security. It simply states they will have “charge and control,” over the courthouse, how the Commissioners Court sees fit, through regulations.

Essentially, the Commissioners Court could tell the Sheriff’s Office that during normal business hours there is not a need for their “charge,” or “control.”

The move to pull the MOU may be a big mistake early on in Sheriff Garza’s tenure. We look forward to seeing the outcome of the Cameron County District Court Case 2021-DCL-02243