Bexar County using liability insurance on judges to protect taxpayers' money

BEXAR COUNTY, Texas – Bexar County commissioners are taking preemptive steps to protect taxpayers when and if county judges are sued.

Commissioners approved the purchase of supplemental professional liability insurance for a premium of $18,144 for a year of coverage. That's $1,152 for each premium of the 15 judges, plus the 5% surplus lines charges of $864.

Administrative Judge John Longoria said judges are considered immune from a lawsuit when they are acting on the bench, but there are levels of difficulties that might arise where judges can be open to lawsuits.  

“If a judge gets sued, the taxpayer is going to wind up answering,” he said. “So if you get someone that gets a million-dollar verdict, guess who pays? It’s not just a judge.”

Judges can be sued for administrative-type decisions they make. Lawsuits can also arise from constitutional rights violations, intentionally hurting someone or employment-related decisions.

“My personal attitude has always been: 'Don’t govern by crisis. Get ahead of it,'” Longoria said. “This insurance idea is getting ahead of any problems.”

The liability insurance would also cover the court fees to defend the county from a lawsuit.

Longoria pointed to a federal lawsuit against Harris County that found the bail system was unconstitutional and unfair to the indigent.  

Longoria said Bexar County leaders are always looking for ways to improve the judiciary process to ensure taxpayers are not open to any lawsuits.

“It’s an ongoing process. There's always improvements that need to be made,” he said. “Sometimes, crisis will point to issues that should have been addressed and haven’t been.”

About the Author: