Judge Oscar Jesús 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, on November 6, 2012, and again on November 8, 2016, with no opposition.

Credited for being the first Judge in Webb County to openly allow cameras in the courtroom to grant the media more access to the courts and to make court proceedings more transparent, Judge Hale also 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. A room especially equipped to provide audio/video conferencing via remote broadcasting was set up by Judge Hale for some judicial proceedings, such as magistrations, arraignments, and child victims’ testimony, to take place before the court without having a person physically present in the courtroom. This arrangement may contribute to save some of our tax payers’ money on costs such as transportation of defendants from different state jail or prison facilities and may also benefit child victims who can testify before the Court from a remote location, which has been set up in our own courthouse, to provide a childlike atmosphere.

As an early intervention for teenagers in our community who are at risk of developing a drug addiction, Judge Hale implemented the “Let’s All Rise to the Challenge” program wherein, as part of their sentences, teenagers and young adults who are going through the court system are ordered 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 expanded his program to include students attending STEP Academy, LARA Academy, and JJAEP.

In order to maintain the sanctity of adoptions and to avoid the stress inflicted by other types of civil cases on the children, Judge Hale set aside a special day every month to celebrate all adoption proceedings, where dozens of children have been adopted since he took the bench in 2005. As a means of addressing the various counseling needs of the parties who appear before the Court and meeting the needs of our community, a Counseling Services Coordinator was added to the 406th District Court’s staff. The Counseling Services Coordinator heads our “Thinking Positive for a Change” program which was created by Judge Hale to assist individuals who are suffering through a drug addiction crisis or who have experienced domestic violence by providing its abusive family member(s) with special training to help them change their behavior by “Thinking Positive for a Change”.

During his second term as presiding judge of the 406th District Court, Judge Hale spearheaded the revision of the Webb County Local Rules which had not been revised since 1991, and which the Board of Judges voted to adopt on December 2, 2009, during his first term as Local Administrative Judge.

Envisioning 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, Judge Hale implemented the “Courts in School” program. 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.

Consequently, Judge Hale implemented the 406th District Court Adult Drug Court Program (DCP), a judicially supervised treatment program for adults charged with certain drug-related crimes and in desperate need for treatment for chemical dependency. The program’s goal is to help participants reach a recovering-addict state and reduce the recidivism rate in our community. Late in 2018, the program’s services were expanded to include the counties of Jim Hogg, Starr and Zapata, Texas. Since the implementation of the program, Webb County has been awarded almost $5 million in grant funding by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Understanding the dire needs of our veteran community, Judge Hale established the 406th Veterans Treatment Program, which he operates with the invaluable assistance of Judge Beckie Palomo, 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. Subsequently, Judge Hale created the South Texas Veterans Treatment Court Program to expand the services offered by the 406th Veterans Treatment Program to the counties of Duvall, Jim Wells, Starr and Zapata, Texas.

Due to a constitutional amendment to the Mexican Constitution, Mexican law now requires oral hearings on all criminal and some civil cases. The new law mandated each of the Mexican states to phase in the new procedures by 2016. The Tamaulipas judicial contingency reached out to Judge Hale in late 2016, requesting an opportunity to engage in a comprehensive roundtable discussion and overview of the American Jurisprudence process. Judge Hale has hosted three “International Judicial Conferences” with the attendance of over 30 state judges from Mexico and from the southern region of Texas. The judges from Mexico have been afforded access to the 406th District Courtroom to observe oral hearings and jury trials in action.

In collaboration with the Webb County Sheriff and Casa Misericordia, Judge Hale applied for, and received, the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women FY2018 Justice for Families Grant, an initiative to deter domestic violence with the purpose of assisting families by staffing a “Safe Haven” center with key personnel trained to conduct supervised parent-child visits and to safeguard visitation exchanges between parents.

Every year, Judge Hale hosts several students from Texas A&M International University as part of the 406th Judicial District Court’s Internship program. The program allows the students to complete a 160-hour internship as a graduation requirement during which they are welcomed into the office and courtroom to learn about the judicial system and witness court proceedings and jury trials.

Judge Hale was appointed by, and served on, the State Bar of Texas Criminal Jury Panel committee from 2009 to 2012. He 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 2017, Judge Hale received the “Fellow” recognition from the Texas Bar College for maintaining membership for 10 or more consecutive years. He was honored by the Laredo Rotary Club with the “Paul Harris” award and was also recognized with the “Judge John C. Creuzot” Award for Judicial Vision and Leadership by the Texas Association of Specialty Courts.

Currently, Judge Hale serves as member of the Webb County Juvenile Board and as Chairman of the Pretrial Services Oversight Committee.

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