Justice of the Peace Mentors
The Mentor Program was created as way to connect newly elected or appointed Justices of the Peace with other judges and persons involved in Justice Court. Our hope is that through this program, you will develop professional relationships with exemplary judges around the state who will offer their expertise on particular topics.
While the Training Center is here to help you with any legal expertise you may need, the mentors listed below will be able to answer questions pertaining to office management, how to communicate successfully with your County government, and how to access resources. Each mentor will reach out to you in January with an introductory email. Feel free to contact any of the mentors below if you have questions or concerns.
For more information or feedback about this program, contact Jessica at 512-347-9927, ext. 206 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hon. Billy Ball
Justice of the Peace | Angelina County, Pct. 1 | Lufkin, TX
Judge Billy Ball began his criminal justice and public service career in 1966. Through the years, he has served with both the Dallas Police Department and the United States Forest Service. Judge Ball was elected Justice of the Peace in 2002. Judge Ball’s court’s primary consists of civil, evictions, magistration, issuance of warrants, working cooperatively with jail staff involving mental and medical issues within the jail, pre-trial hearings, i.e., examining trials, bond reduction hearings, and/or modifications of the various conditions of bonds, and administrative hearings.
The Judge has a unique court that is located within a Detention Center Complex with direct access to the jail. Two (2) large hospitals are also located within the precinct. The hospitals are also the medical and trauma centers (including life flight) for the surrounding rural East Texas counties with an impact on the court regarding death inquest. He also has experienced issues with Organ Donation organizations and medical/trauma association and with voluminous open records requests requiring large amounts of time, and including responding to complaints submitted to Attorney General's Office and the Office of Court Administration.
Judge Ball believes strongly in educating his staff which includes 3 clerks. Judge Ball is an avid webinar attendee and is currently experimenting with closing the office during the webinar training periods so all court staff can be present. This is to ensure that staff and judge receive the same information, the opportunity to have questions answered and for later discussion with full knowledge of the training provided. This court operates and believes in total interaction and input between court staff and judge, and works toward enhancement of knowledge, skills and abilities of all personnel.
Hon. Gary Janssen
Justice of the Peace | Fort Bend County, Pct. 1, Place 1 | Needville, TX
Judge Gary D. Janssen has been the Justice of the Peace for Precinct One, Place One, in Fort Bend County since January 1, 2009. Before being elected Justice of the Peace, Judge Janssen maintained a private law practice for twenty years. Judge Janssen has also served as the City of Needville Municipal Judge since January 1, 1999. He has also served as an Associate Judge for the cities of Sugar Land, Richmond and Rosenberg.
Judge Janssen was born and raised in Houston and moved to Precinct One in Fort Bend County in 1984, after being honorably discharged from active duty with the U.S. Army. He continued serving as a U.S. Army Reservist, serving a total of 16 years in the Army. After departing the active duty Army, he began working for Texas Instruments, where he was a Security Manager, CPP. He began law school at night, while working at Texas Instruments. Upon graduation from law school and passing the bar exam, Judge Janssen started a private law practice, where he handled a wide array of legal matters.
Judge Janssen is available for any guidance related to the Justice of the Peace duties, particularly in the area of Small Claims, Evictions, Debt Claims and Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. He also handles an abundance of death inquests and truancy matters and may be able to assist with inquiries in these areas.
Hon. Billy Johnson, Jr.
Justice of the Peace | Midland County, Pct. 3 | Midland, TX
Judge Billy Johnson took office in 2007. Judge Johnson attended West Texas State University and also graduated from Midland College from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling Program. Previous to being a Judge, he was a Special Education teacher, a Support Counselor with the Midland CRTC, and a juvenile case manager. Judge Johnson is happily married to his wonderful wife Lisa and they have been blessed with three beautiful children: Trey, Louis, and LaShawna.
Judge Johnson takes a special interest in performing Inquests as he believes that it allows JP’s a special insight into different parts of our society. He is also glad to speak on issues concerning demeanor on and off the bench. Judge Johnson has spent years working with children in the both the school and the courtroom and can speak to Juvenile Criminal Cases. The Judge has attended an Executive Leadership Program with the Texas Association of Counties and public service opportunities are of great interest to him. He wishes to welcome and thank the new judges for this wonderful opportunity to serve them.
Hon. Karin Knolle
Justice of the Peace | Jim Wells County, Pct. 3 | Sandia, TX
Karin Knolle is a Justice of the Peace in Jim Wells County. She is also a rancher and beekeeper. She received her BA in Social Work from St. Edward’s Univ. in Austin in 1986 and a Master’s Certificate in Homeland Security from the The Bush School at Texas A&M in 2006. She worked as a Social Worker and Certified Drug & Alcohol Counselor for several years in Austin and with the Orange Grove ISD in South Texas most recently. She currently serves on the Local Emergency Planning Committee as Vice Chair for JWC, a member of the Coastal Bend COG for Public Safety Planning Committee, and a Panel Member and substitute Judge for the JWC Juvenile Drug Court. She is a member of various organizations and serves in various capacities, locally and regionally.
Judge Knolle is happy to be of any assistance to new judges as so many experienced judges gave their time to help her and continue to do. Her interests include inquests, magistrations (video & other), mental health warrants, peace bonds, and Occupational Driver’s licenses. She is also versed in dealing with Commissioner’s Court, albeit with limited success.
Hon. Tommy Munoz
Justice of the Peace | Brazos County, Pct. 2 | College Station, TX
Judge Tommy A. Munoz was first elected in November 2006. Before making his run for office, Judge Munoz, served as bailiff/court interpreter, and then court coordinator for County Court at Law No. 2 from 1991 until Dec 2006. He also completed and was nationally certified by the National Center for State Courts (by the Institute for Court Management) as a Court Administrator/Manager. For his extraordinary contributions in promoting court administration, while serving as Court Coordinator, Judge Munoz was the recipient of the Charles B. Barrow Award, which is one of the most coveted awards in the State of Texas, while serving on the Board of Directors for the Texas Association of Court Administrators (TACA). Judge Munoz also served as facilitator for the Texas Center for Judiciary instructing court clerks, coordinators and administrators throughout the state. In his first 8 years, in his capacity as Justice of the Peace, Judge Munoz, presided over and worked diligently to combat truancy and disciplinary problems in Bryan ISD through the use of community resources. He instituted the use of Electronic Monitors for tracking of students that are truant and this program was nationally recognized on CNN. Judge Munoz is excited to meet the new judges and would love to answer any question particularly about inquest and relations with the Commissioner’s Court. Judge Munoz’s county is in a suburban area and he has expertise in dealing with case backlog management.
Hon. Lori Reid
Justice of the Peace | Leon County, Pct. 1 | Buffalo, TX
I began working for Leon County, pct. 1 as a part-time Court Clerk back in 1994. In 2006, the Justice of the Peace I was clerking for, my friend and mentor, Donald Carr passed away in his last term from a fast and devastating bout with cancer. I was appointed J.P. to finish his term and then was elected J.P. in 2007. Even though I had many years of experience as being a court clerk, I felt inadequate taking over as Justice of the Peace. Therefore, in 2008 I enrolled and completed 225 hours of a web based paralegal certificate program with the University of Texas at San Antonio. The program taught me how to research statutes and case law which as been invaluable to me. In October of this year, I completed a 6-week web based education course with the National Judicial College entitled Special Considerations for the Rural Court Judge. Two of the main topics for the course are issues all judges face, ethics, and judicial independence in a rural court setting. I believe in finding and taking advantage of educational opportunities and passing the lessons that I've learned as well as encouragement onto others. I am honored and enthusiastic to answer any questions you may have concerning rural court issues that you may be facing.
Hon. Thelma Rodriguez
Justice of the Peace | Nueces County, Pct. 2, Place 2 | Corpus Christi, TX
Judge Rodriguez started out with Nueces County as a court clerk for 5 years and then served as a court manager for an additional
17 years. In 2014, she was elected for the position of Justice of the Peace. She believes that her 22 years of court clerk experience has given her the ability and knowledge to maintain the position in a more efficient manner.
She served on the Court Clerks Education Committee for the Texas Justice Court Training Center for 10 years. She currently has been elected to serve on the Board of the South Texas Justice of the Peace and Constables Association and was also appointed to be the Presiding JP of Nueces County for the next 2 years. Judge Rodriguez was also appointed by the Nueces County Judge to serve on the Truancy Committee Board that was mandated in this last Legislative session.
Judge Rodriguez is excited to meet the new judges and would love to answer any questions particularly about becoming a newly elected official and all of the responsibilities that come with that. She has been selected one out of two Judges’ to hear all of the Corpus Christi Independent School District truancy cases for Nueces County. Judge Rodriguez is well versed with school cases, evictions, administrative hearings, occupational driver’s license, hot check cases and all civil cases. The only thing that is not filed currently in her Court is Parks and Wildlife tickets and she gets very minimal traffic cases. Due to the population in her county, she does not have to do any inquests.
Hon. Dianne Samaniego
Justice of the Peace | Armstrong County, Countywide JP | Claude, TX
Judge Samaniego is a Justice of the Peace in Armstrong County. She was the Chief Justice Court Clerk for approximately 6
months before being appointed as Justice of the Peace in 2013. Prior to working in County Government, Judge Samaniego was a social worker for 20 years. Judge Samaniego is a member of the Justice of the Peace and Constable Association, the West Texas Justice of the Peace and Constable Association, and the Texas Justice Court Judges Association.
Judge Samaniego enjoys new judges, and is happy to field questions and help look for answers! Armstrong County has a population of less than 1900 people. Judge Samaniego shares her information in the following areas:
Magistrate Duties: Warnings, Bonds, Bond Conditions, and Emergency Protective Orders. Has developed office procedures for all things Magistrate
Inquests: Judge Samaniego also conducts all Inquests for the county and will share her procedures for this process.
Criminal Complaints: Armstrong County has a high volume of Criminal Complaints filed in the office – approx. 3000 a year. Judge Samaniego has procedures for filing, docket management, movement of a citation through the system, compliance dismissals, jury and non-jury trial, driver’s safety and deferral.
Civil: Judge Samaniego has experience with small claims and evictions – primarily with known parties. Can assist with avoiding ex parte communication and recusal.
Other: Judge Samaniego’s court uses Hill Country Software and she is happy to share all forms that she has on the system.
Hon. Robert Whitaker
Justice of the Peace | Victoria County, Pct. 3 | Victoria, TX
Robert B. “Bob” Whitaker earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Baylor University in 1975, and law degree from Baylor Law School in 1977. He practiced law in Victoria County for nearly 30 years before being elected as Justice of the Peace in 2006. Prior to serving as Justice of the Peace, Whitaker previously served two terms as Municipal for the City of Victoria. During his tenure as Justice of the Peace, he has presided over hundreds of bench and jury trials and administrative hearings in addition to the daily supervision of the court. He is a member of the College of the State Bar of Texas, the Justice Court s Association and the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association of Texas. In 2009 and again in 2010 Whitaker was honored during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week for outstanding service on behalf of crime victims in Victoria County. Whitaker serves as the primary magistrate for all courts in Victoria County. He has extensive experience issuing bond conditions and emergency protective orders. In 2011 Whitaker was an instructor for the Texas Justice Court Training Center on the topics of Crime Victims Rights and Rights of Accused. In 2017 Whitaker attended the “Judicial Responsibility for Justice in Criminal Courts” conference at the Freedman Institute of the Hofstra University Law School in New York as a delegate for the Texas Justice Court Training Center.
Hon. Kerry Williamson
Justice of the Peace | Nacogdoches County, Pct. 1 | Nacogdoches, TX
Judge Williamson is a Justice of the Peace in Nacogdoches County. He was previously employed as a police officer for 14 years, retiring in 2006 from that position. He has an advanced certification from TCOLE and was a TCOLE certified field training officer, instructor, and firearms instructor for over 10 years. He was elected Justice of the Peace and took office in 2006. Judge Williamson is in his third term as a JP, serves on the Nacogdoches County Child Fatality Review Board and is a member of JPCA.
Judge Williamson is excited to meet the new judges and would be eager to answer any questions particularly about inquests, video magistration, and criminal cases. Judge Williamson’s county is in a rural area, and he has expertise in dealing with small county funding issues.
Constable Delton Thrasher
Constable | Hood County, Pct. 1 | Granbury, TX
Delton Thrasher retired as the Chief Deputy Constable with Tarrant Co., Pct. 3. He was employed with Tarrant County for the past thirty-six years, spending twenty-three years with the Constable's office. He is currently Constable of Hood County, Pct. 1. He holds Master Peace Officer, TCOLE Instructor, and Civil Process Proficiency Certificates. He has instructed classes in Tarrant County for the Area Regional Training Academy, the Fort Worth Police Department and local training classes for deputy constables. Delton is currently the Vice-Chair of the Constable Education Committee. He is recipient of the "Deputy of the Year" award from the Justices of the Peace and Constables Association in 2003 and 2010. He has been an instructor with TJCTC for seventeen years. He is happy to answer any questions new JP’s may have about the role of his or her Constable.