Judge Oscar J. Hale, Jr. was sworn in as District Judge of the 406th District Court on January 1, 2005. He was re-elected to the Bench on November 4, 2008, and again on November 6, 2012, with no opposition.
During his first term at the behest of Judge Hale, the legislature gave the 406th District Court concurrent jurisdiction with the county courts in several areas in order to facilitate the flow of cases.
Judge Hale was credited for being the first Webb County Judge to openly allow cameras in the courtroom to allow the media more access to the courts and to make court proceedings more transparent.
Judge Hale willingly took over the felony drug docket from the 49th District Court as an effort to equalize the dockets;
Judge Hale created the first warrant enforcement division for Webb County State Courts in order to aid the Courts in enforcing arrest warrants and writs of attachment issued for those individuals who fail to appear in court.
Judge Hale established a video teleconferencing room that has been equipped to provide audio/video conferencing via remote broadcasting. Some judicial proceedings – magistrations, arraignments, and child victims’ testimony, for example, can now take place before the Court through video conferencing, which alleviates the necessity of having a person be physically present in the courtroom itself, the result of which may help save some of our tax payers’ money on things such as transportation costs from different state jail or prison facilities and, not no mention, benefiting child victims who can also testify before the Court from a remote location in our own courthouse that has been set up to provide a childlike atmosphere.
Judge Hale was appointed to serve as the Local Administrative Judge for the District Courts of Webb County from 2008-2010, and again from 2013-2015.
Judge Hale implemented the “Let’s All Rise to the Challenge” program. This program was specifically effectuated to serve as an early intervention for teenagers in our community who are at risk of developing a drug addiction. Teenagers and young adults who are going through the court system are ordered as part of their sentences to speak to students about the dangers and consequences of drug usage and/or abuse. Realizing the need to reach out to our youth, Judge Hale has expanded his program to include students attending STEP Academy, LARA Academy, and JJAEP.
In order to maintain the sanctity of adoptions, Judge Hale decided to set aside a special day every month to celebrate all adoption proceedings and no other types of cases are set at this time. There have been dozens of children adopted during these proceedings over the past six years.
In line with meeting the needs of our community and as a means of addressing the various counseling needs of the parties who appear before the Court, a parenting coordinator and a chemical dependency counselor were added to the 406th District Court’s staff. The 406th District Court counselor also heads our “Thinking Positive for a Change” course sessions. This program was created to assist families who are suffering through a drug addiction crisis or who have experienced domestic violence by providing its abusive family member(s) with special training in how to change their behavior by “Thinking Positive for a Change”.
Also during his first term, Judge Hale presided over 46 jury trials and disposed of over 4,838 cases.
In Judge Hale’s second term, he spearheaded the revision of the Webb County Local Rules that had not been revised since 1991. In fact, the Board of Judges voted to adopt the new local rules on December 2, 2009, during Judge Hale’s term as Local Administrative Judge. The Texas Supreme Court is scheduled to adopt these rules by May 2014.
Judge Hale envisioned the idea of transforming an auditorium or a gymnasium at each of our secondary school facilities into a courtroom – complete with judge, lawyers, court reporter, bailiff and defendants – in order to provide a real-world lesson to students. This idea developed into a program implemented by Judge Hale now known as the “Courts in Schools” program. Because of our local success with this program and with the support of our State Representative Richard Raymond and his filing of HB 1113, effective September 1, 2011, it became new law that court sessions may be held at secondary schools across the State of Texas.
Judge Hale also implemented the Drug Court Program (DCP), which is a judicially supervised treatment program for adults who are charged with certain drug-related crimes and who are in desperate need for treatment for chemical dependency. The goal of the program is to help participants reach a recovering-addict state and reduce the recidivism rate in our community. Since the implementation of this program, Webb County has been awarded over $1.5 million in grant funding.
The Webb County Drug Court Sobriety Treatment Program (STP) is a component of the Webb County Drug Court and was developed to address DWI offenses, as well as possessions of marijuana and other related offenses. Judge Beckie Palomo is now the presiding judge of these cases.
In 2008, Judge Hale was presented with the “Pioneer Award” for the Webb County Twelfth Annual Domestic Coalition.
Judge Hale was appointed to serve on the State Bar of Texas Criminal Jury Panel committee in 2009 and served until 2012.
In 2012, Judge Hale was recognized by the Texas Center for the Judiciary for having met the certification standards for family jurisprudence while attending the Texas College for Judicial Studies in 2012.
Judge Hale, together with Judge Palomo, established the Veterans Treatment Program (VTP) to make services available to veterans who are in our criminal justice system due to chemical dependency, substance abuse, or alcohol abuse related to post-traumatic stress disorders.