Office hours changed to accommodate residents

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

With later office hours three days a week and improved use of technology, Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Karin Knolle is changing the way things are done in her new office.

The office will now be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with one hour for lunch. The change is in the Tuesday/Thursday office schedule, which will now be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., to better accommodate those who don't return from work until 5 p.m. and need to conduct business at the JP's office.

Technologywise, the office now uses a broadband connection, in place of the old dial up connection previously used. The office also now utilizes two computers they received from the district court, which have greater speed and memory capacity.

Knolle is still getting used to the new position, but said it's a lot like being a counselor. She said the job isn't too difficult.

"When I was working with kids, I was the student's advocate. But here I have to be impartial, because I have to uphold the law. Here I can't take sides. As JP, I'm advocating for the law," Knolle said.

Knolle has assistance in her office, with two part-time clerks, Mary Lou Cruz and Veronica Alvarado, and of course Pct. 3 Constable Sonny Crisp. Knolle said her clerks are really the ones who hold the office together and are invaluable additions to the Pct 3 office.

"That's really the hard job around here, and the clerks make it work. They make everything run," Knolle said.

So far, Knolle has had the opportunity to officiate two weddings, one for Orange Grove residents and one for Sandia residents, and has conducted one inquest since taking over the position from JP Elois Barham this summer.

She said the weddings were perhaps the best part of her job so far, because they were both happy occasions.

"The people we see in here are usually sad, upset or mad. So I really enjoyed the weddings, because they were happy moments," Knolle said.

Knolle recently returned from JP school in Austin this month, and starting in December will have to do another 80 hours of JP education.

Regardless of where she is or what she's doing, Knolle said she realizes that being a judge is 24/7, and that it's an incredible responsibility - one that she said she takes very seriously.

"Although I can't give legal advice, we try to help them with their questions. When residents come to me, I always ask if there's something I can help them with," Knolle said.