Harris County Civil Court judges recently hosted a training, sponsored by Vinson & Elkins attorney David Wall, for a group of newly appointed special commissioners who determine the value of condemned residential properties.
The newly appointed special commissioners are comprised of an assorted group of people representing the makeup of the communities they represent.
“When we took office and looked at the list of special commissioners who were appointed in the prior administrations we did not find it to be reflective of the ethnic diversity of Harris County residents,” Administrative Judge Jim Kovach told The Signal.
“The list was overwhelmingly made of people who were older and white,” Kovach said. “We decided that in order to make sure that all property owners receive fair compensation we should make sure the Special Commissioners come from all communities and have diverse backgrounds.”
Kovach stressed the need for appointments to be fair and reflect diverse backgrounds, ensuring property owners that proceedings are unbiased. He added that appointments allow for an opportunity for individuals to get more involved with their local government.
“It has been a one-sided field for far too long,” attorney Joy Thomas, one of the appointees, said. “When you go to a commissioners’ hearing as a [property owner] and you sit down in a room where you see people who look like you, there’s a perception of fairness.”
Thomas argues that diversity in this role would allow legal proceedings to progress more smoothly. She reasoned that awarded compensation would be accepted without a desire to appeal if landowners identified with the special commissioners.
Attorney Duke Amos, another newly appointed special commissioner, added that a diverse panel of special commissioners would feel more at ease and less intimidated by the process.
“I think it’s great for us to be appointed that way they can relate to somebody that’s gonna be sitting in front of them,” Amos said.