Mark Goodner and Ben Gibbs took a moment to discuss a topic from the 2023 Academic Year curriculum.
Mark Goodner: Ben, it’s been a whirlwind start to our 2022-2023 Academic Year. Last week, we held our East Texas Regional Clerks and Judges Seminars. It was such a wonderful audience and a great start for TMCEC. One of the classes you taught last week (and will continue to teach) is “Dangerous and Mistreated Animals.” As you prepared this class for municipal court personnel, is there one idea that you tried to highlight?
Ben Gibbs: Yes. There are two overarching ideas in this class, as I see U First, there is the regional theme this year. Court is back in session, and we are emerging from quarantine like the first buds of spring. Many courts have not held any form of in-person hearing or trial in nearly two years. It’s good to be reminded of the processes, and particularly the ones that we didn’t see every day before 2020.
And on that subject, these are mostly civil processes. I know it can be intimidating to be confronted with a case that just doesn’t fit into the usual mold we expect in municipal court, and my goal is to give resources, more than to drill procedure. Animal hearings are difficult enough, what with the emotional aspects involved. With a careful and reasoned approach, I think the procedural difficulties can be overcome. You don’t have to know everything if you know where to find it.
MG: Thanks, Ben. When preparing to teach, I usually learn new things about a topic as I prepare a session—or sometimes I remind myself of something I may have forgotten! What did you learn (or remember) as you put this class together?
BG: The procedural distinction between dogs that attack persons and dogs that are found dangerous for other reasons was always hazy for me, working in municipal courts. As a clerk, I had trouble getting up to speed, as everything seemed so different and we handled so few of them (thank goodness). As a prosecutor, I only came across a handful of these cases and never had to deal with any serious dog bite cases. It took some review for me to be sure I was clear on the procedures.
MG: We are just a couple of weeks away from our Central Texas Regional Seminars in Austin. Do you have any specific goals for this class the next time you present it?
BG: With this kind of case, it’s not a question of if, but when you will see one. If I can make attendees feel a little more at ease and ready to locate resources in a pinch, I feel I’ve succeeded. Ideally, Judges and clerks should be able to concentrate on doing justice instead of combing statutes in a blind panic. I want to get that information across to the class clearly.
MG: Thanks, Ben!