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Judge Curt Henderson operates his court in two places: in a building on South McDonald Street in McKinney, Texas, and on a Web site in cyberspace. The judge says his “dual courtroom” makes the 219th District Court in Collin County operate more efficiently. Lawyers in many instances can save time, as well as money, for their clients as they click their way through many court procedures from their office. Technology also makes life better for Henderson, who can have dinner with his family, then finish up work at home by computer rather than chained to his desk at the courthouse. The judge, who is incoming chairman of the Computer and Technology Section of the State Bar of Texas, says he became interested in the computer “for what it could do for me.” It does a lot for him. Henderson’s Web site, www.texasjudge.com/henderson, provides docket information in civil matters and allows lawyers to get settings in certain kinds of cases and set motions for summary judgment. It also has information on seminars for divorcing parents, court rules, the Collin County Bench Bar Foundation, telephonic appearances and other matters. The judge started his drive to bring more technology to the courts in the mid-1990s, when he helped establish — with the Plano Bar Association and Practical Parent Education — For Kids’ Sake, a seminar designed to teach parents about the effects of divorce on children. He decided to spruce up his Web site to provide more material on the program, which teaches parents how to avoid putting their kids in the middle of the battle. Henderson and other judges in Collin County, Texas, bought the domain name of texasjudge.com and pay for the cost of the Web site. Most have put up Web pages, with Henderson’s among the first. The judge says posting information online means fewer phone calls from lawyers and litigants, saving time and money. Court schedules are updated once or twice a day. Technology also has made trials more efficient, Henderson says. Some courtrooms in Collin County, including his, have equipment for PowerPoint presentations and a screen that drops down from the ceiling. Exhibits can be enlarged and shown on the screen using a type of projector, called an Elmo after the manufacturer, that makes it easier for jurors to see the evidence. Henderson uses a PowerPoint presentation to voir dire juries. “The jury is really receptive,” he says. “If they can see it and hear it, they can retain it better.” Other advances have made steering a case through the system easier. Under the CourtCall system, lawyers can pay $50 to a vendor that sets up a conference call for certain types of matters so counsel can make arguments from their offices, rather than driving to McKinney from Dallas. If attorneys on both sides agree, some witnesses in civil cases can testify by telephone. Some motions can be submitted by fax. Proposed orders can be sent to the court by e-mail. Henderson says a lawyer in a recent case filed his pleadings by fax, used the Internet to schedule hearings, set up a hearing through CourtCall to argue his point and sent his proposed order by e-mail. “He did the entire case without even stepping foot in my courtroom,” the judge says. The system is still evolving. Henderson hopes to make more information available online to litigants so they can check the status of their cases, such as whether the other party has been served. Debbie Harrison, an assistant district attorney, says the judge’s computer-savvy ways help in trial. Using PowerPoint in voir dire and in evidence presentation is a bonus for jurors, she says. “A lot of people understand things better when they can see them,” Harrison says. “PowerPoint helps get our evidence across.” She adds that the judge is on top of his cases and will quickly pull information off the computer when a citation is mentioned. “If you’re a lawyer in his court, you have to be on your toes and prepared,” the prosecutor says. Criminal-defense attorney Greg Brewer, an associate with Holmes Woods & Diggs in McKinney, says the high-tech courtroom is a bonus. In a recent trial, he used the Elmo to present exhibits. “It was great,” he says. “It was a lot different from seeing something on an easel that’s handwritten.” PASSION FOR LAW Brewer’s satisfaction with the court goes beyond technology. He says Henderson follows the law and works hard. “If you go to the courthouse and you need a judge at 4:30 in the afternoon, you know that Judge Henderson will be there, Monday through Friday,” Brewer says. A desire to help people prompted Henderson to become a lawyer and eventually led him to the bench. He grew up in the Lake Highlands, Texas, area and had a few offers from downtown Dallas firms after graduating from Baylor University School of Law in 1977 and passing the bar in February 1978, but they didn’t appeal to him. Instead, he headed for Plano, Texas, which he considered a “new frontier.” After working at a Plano firm, he landed a job as an assistant Collin County criminal district attorney in 1979. In 1986, he was appointed to County Court at Law No. 1 and won election to that position in November that year. Two years later, he was appointed by Gov. Bill Clements to the 219th District Court and, again, went on to win the seat in the general election. Since then, Henderson, a Republican, has won re-election every four years. He faced opposition only once and is running unopposed again in November. “I love the courtroom. I love public service,” Henderson says. “Being a judge is a way to provide full-time public service.” District judges in Collin County have general jurisdiction courts that handle family, civil and criminal cases. Henderson enjoys the variety of cases, which have ranged from capital murder to trade secrets to custody disputes. “There’s always a little bit of everything coming at you all day long,” he says. February and August are double-docket months, where district judges in Collin County, one of the fastest-growing areas in Texas, work 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. hearing civil trials to stave off a backlog. Henderson does a lot of pretrial work the week before double-docket month begins, sitting down with lawyers to pre-approve exhibits and prepare jury charges. He likes to be prepared when the trials start so no one’s time is wasted. “I take these [pretrial hearings] seriously,” he says. “They’re not a thing to slough off.” Outside of the courtroom, Henderson is just as busy. The judge and his wife, Cindy, have two children. They are involved in community and church activities. Henderson’s work to improve the lives of kids was recognized last year with the Voice for Children Award from Court Appointed Special Advocates. Lawyers who practice in Collin County praise Henderson for the way he runs his court and his community work. Mark Montgomery of Parker & Montgomery, which has offices in McKinney and Plano, says Henderson has contributed a lot to building the Collin County Bench Bar Foundation, which sponsors legal and educational programs. “You learn a lot in his court,” he says. “He’s up on the law, not just computers.” Richard Abernathy of Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Joplin in McKinney, also notes the judge’s keen interest in technology but says lawyers don’t have to be computer experts to get along in his court. “He’s a thoughtful, considerate judge who tries to give both sides a fair trial,” Abernathy, a civil attorney and Frisco city attorney, says. “He’s bright and hard working. He’s a straight shooter.”

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