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County Commissioners Solve Judges’ Office Feud

January 5, 1989

EL PASO, Texas (AP) _ A state judge who wanted a rival’s courtroom so badly he broke into his office and removed his papers and books was awarded the chambers when El Paso County Commissioners decided seniority should prevail.

The commissioners’ decision Wednesday in favor of district Judge Peter Peca Jr. means Judge Jose Troche is a man without a chambers: El Paso has 11 district judges but only 10 courtrooms.

The office and courtroom in dispute had been vacated last week by Ward Koehler, the former 168th district judge who defeated Peca last November for a spot in the state’s 8th Court of Appeals.

In one of his last acts as district judge, Koehler decreed that Troche, his appointed successor, should get the sixth-floor office rather than Peca.

Peca, who was elected to the 171st district two years ago, had been the odd judge out in the game of musical benches. He had to hold court wherever he could find an available courtroom.

On Sunday, Peca broke into the office and removed papers, books and other items belonging to Troche, who had moved in Friday and posted Koehler’s decree on the door.

When Troche went to the office Monday to tidy up, he found Peca’s nameplate in place of Koehler’s order. The locks had been changed, and Troche’s property had been moved to a table in a jury room down the hall.

Despite Peca’s unilateral action, commissioners bought his argument that he should get a permanent office because he has seniority over Troche.

Peca was not present at the commissioners’ meeting, but Troche commented, ″I’d like the court to establish some procedure (for allocating court space).″

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