A grand opening celebration was held on Wednesday, Nov. 10, for the new Liberty County Court at Law No. 2 courtroom in the Liberty County Courthouse. Judge Wes Hinch, who was elected in 2020 to the newly-created court at law, was sworn in on Jan. 4 and has since been holding hearings in borrowed spaces elsewhere.
Hinch’s new courtroom is in the former location of the Liberty County tax office on the first floor of the county courthouse. The tax office has since been relocated to 3210 US 90 in Liberty.
Over the last several months, the old tax office in the courthouse has been transformed by crews with Myron McDowell Construction of Dayton. The layout of the courtroom presented some challenges, particularly from two load-bearing beams that could not be removed.
To come up with a design and layout for the courtroom, the County hired architect Kenny Burns, who also designed the new sheriff’s office and annex that is under construction on SH 146 north of Liberty. The plan has the judge’s bench on the back side of the room with Hinch using one of large safes as an office. The remaining safe is now a room for jurors to gather during trials.
In the main area of the courtroom, which still has to be outfitted with benches, there are two tables that face the judge’s bench where the prosecution and defense can sit during trials. Along each side of the main room are halls.
At the grand opening celebration, guests tried out the new jurors’ chairs that were crafted by Texas Correctional Institute by inmates in Huntsville. The chairs will be used temporarily during hearings until the second-hand benches are refurbished by inmates.
Hinch explained that the unique layout also meant that the courtroom’s only bathroom could not be refurbished without adhering to standards that would make it handicapped-accessible. With no space for those changes, they were forced to leave the bathroom in its original condition. Visitors to the courtroom who need handicapped-accessible bathrooms will have to use the first-floor bathrooms instead.
“We did the best we could with the facilities we have. I am very proud and grateful for all the effort that went into it,” he said.
With the grand opening coming just a couple of months after he survived a subarachnoid hemorrhage in his brain, Hinch expressed his sincere gratitude to everyone who assisted while he was in the hospital or recovering at home.
“At the end of August and throughout September, I was indisposed. I am so thankful to Judge Chap Cain and Judge Tommy Chambers for covering those hearings for me during that time. I am also thankful to the Bar for being so kind and rescheduling things,” he said. “I want to thank you all for your prayers. I am so very grateful to be here. Every day is a good day in the County Court at Law No. 2.”