Judge initiates longer business hours, turns down bulletproof glass

Justice of the Peace Precinct 1 Paul Raleeh has taken steps toward making -- and keeping - his court more accessible to his constituents.

Raleeh recently extended Thursday office hours to 7 p.m., enabling constituents to pay fines after typical work hours. He has boldly rejected installation of bulletproof glass in his office.

"The office has been open late on Thursdays for a few weeks now and we are starting to see people take advantage of it," Raleeh said. "At first we just had a trickle of people coming in, but more and more people are dropping by after work to pay their fines."

Raleeh said individuals will soon be able to pay citations online, and the court will revisit their extended office hours when that option comes available.

Unlike other Collin County judges, Raleeh opposed installation of bulletproof glass in his office.

"I don't have any security risk right now. We are a public-based business funded by taxpayer dollars and I think we have adequate security for the office right now," Raleeh said. "A woman came to my office with a tape measure and told me she was going to measure for bulletproof glass. I said 'Don't bother. We don't want it.'"

Raleeh said he does not like talking to people through small holes drilled into glass barriers, or through intercom systems that muddle both sides of any conversation. The judge said glass barriers can cause more problems than they correct.

"This court belongs to the taxpayers, not me. If we have problems, I trust that law enforcement will do their jobs. That's why they are there." Raleeh said. "I would rather spend tax dollars to make the court more accessible to the public - not separate me from the very people I was elected to serve."

Like other Justice offices in Collin County, the office already has a number of security measures in place, including an armed bailiff and keyed and secured cash drawers.

Commissioners Tuesday approved $21,500 to install bulletproof glass in the offices of Justice Mike Yarbrough in Frisco and Justice Terry Douglas in Wylie. The money comes from a fund that is based on fees collected from convicted criminals, probation fees and other areas.

According to Collin County Public Information Officer Leigh Hornsby, Douglas' previous request for Plexiglas was rejected because it had not been budgeted. Director of Administrative Services Bill Bilyeu suggested bulletproof glass be installed when Yarbrough requested Plexiglas for his office a few weeks ago.

"The only way [to pay for installation of glass] was to utilize courthouse security funds," Hornsby said. "That required that we install bulletproof glass."

Officials were unable to estimate the difference between the cost of bulletproof glass and Plexiglas.

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