Harris Co. Family Court No. 4 bailiff inspires, offers help to people in court

November 7, 2011 8:23:23 PM PST
A bailiff is responsible for keeping order in the court room. But in one Harris County family court, something is different -- the bailiff is responsible for changing lives.

Harris County Deputy Oscar Gonzales knows how to keep order in the court. But it's what else he does that helps people in court keep their cool.

"Before we begin I want you to look to the left and right of you. You can greet somebody if you want to, just say 'Hi,' look at them," Gonzales said.

This is part of Deputy Gonzales daily routine, a morning monologue that adds a personal touch.

"How many of y'all come from poverty. Nobody? Just me?" he tells the people in the court.

At first, the people in the court look skeptical, especially when they hear what may not be easy.

"When I tell you you can do it, you can do it. There's no excuse and excuses do not put food on the table," he says.

But after a few minutes, the mood of the crowd seems to change. People being to smile and some say the tough talk is just what they needed. These moms admit they were nervous but the speech made a difference.

"This is the first court I've been to where somebody takes the time to explain the help that people want but are afraid to ask for," parent Jessica Salazar said.

"After his speech, I felt so much calmer and laughing and happy," parent Jeana Kirk said.

"It is going above and beyond the call of duty," Harris County Family Court No. 4 Judge David Longoria said.

Most of the cases in Judge Longoria's court deal with child support. A volatile situation, says the judge, and people aren't in the best of moods when they arrive.

"I think it's a good idea. I mean people come in and they're a little nervous and when you can throw a little comedy in, or a little levity I would say, it does help relax people," Judge Longoria said.

Deputy Gonzales says his morning speech is a way to get the crowd to refocus their emotions.

"When I first came in this court, I noticed tons of tension and altercations. We had people screaming, yelling, they'd go out in the hall and start having conflicts. And I thought about it, how can I reduce these conflicts?" he said.

His desk is also a center for help.

"These are all free resources most people don't know exist, right?" we asked Gonzales.

"That's correct," he said.

"That makes a big difference, doesn't it?" we asked.

"Yes it does to a lot of them," he said.

We traveled to Acres Home to meet one of those people. Steve Burns admits he'd been to court, been to jail and says he didn't have a job, but after listening to Deputy Gonzales was able to make his own job.

"He's gonna be there to tell you what you have to do and what you need to do as far as dealing with the issues that you're going through in life," Burns said.

Burns is opening a BBQ shop using his father's recipes.

"Worth it, it's worth the effort if I can help one person in all this work I'm doing, it's worth it," Deputy Gonzales said.


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