Athens Review, Athens, Texas

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January 4, 2014

County’s position clarified

Athens — A Tyler-based attorney who is representing Henderson County in a disagreement between a district court judge and the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office concerning health care for an inmate has clarified the county’s position.

Robert Davis of Flowers-Davis L.L.C. said in a letter that he has focused on constitutional law and government liability issues for 25 years, and was retained by Henderson County to examine orders issued by 392nd District Court Judge Carter Tarrance.

“While no one believes that Judge Tarrance meant any harm by his actions,” Davis’ letter states, “in my opinion, the Judge entered orders that breached the separation of powers in the State of Texas, and interfered with the Constitutional and Statutory duties of the Henderson County Sheriff and the Henderson County Commissioner’s Court.”

According to Davis, the unnamed inmate has been sentenced and released from the Henderson County Jail, and Sheriff Ray Nutt will not appeal Judge Tarrance’s orders in this case. 

“However, Sheriff Nutt and Henderson County will continue to monitor and review the actions of Judge Tarrance, and will take  legal action if Sheriff Nutt and Henderson County believe that Judge Tarrance is violating the Texas Constitution in the future,” Davis states.

Davis states that the Texas Government Code and Local Government Code places the responsibility for funding county jails within the authority of the county commissioner’s court. The Jail operations, including medical care of jail inmates, falls under the direction and authority of the county sheriff. In Henderson County, the county contracts with Southern Health Partners to provide inmate health care services to inmates housed in the Henderson County Jail.

Davis explained that the issue concerns an inmate who appeared at a bond reduction hearing to which neither Henderson County, nor Nutt were parties. The inmate in question was seen, monitored and or treated by Southern Partners on 96 occasions during the 25 days he was in custody.

“The inmate, in my opinion, received all necessary and reasonable care required,” Davis said.

Davis states that under Sheriff Ray Nutt and the current Henderson County Commissioner’s Court, no inmate has ever successfully claimed that they were denied reasonable health care. In fact, inmates can file a lawsuit, without any cost to themselves, in federal or state court, if they believe that they are not receiving reasonable medical care. Pro se lawsuits of this nature are filed against Texas counties frequently.

Under Sheriff Nutt, Davis states, “Neither he, nor the Henderson County Commissioner’s Court, have ever been found by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards to be in violation of its standards relating to inmate health care, nor has it ever found a violation of any inmate’s constitutional right to receive reasonable medical care.”

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