Chris Cornish

Chris Cornish

BELTON — Chris Cornish, the city prosecutor in Belton, is leaving his position to become Bell County’s newest Child Protective Services judge, according to local officials.

Cornish, who was appointed to the Belton prosecutor job in 2017, will replace Judge Charles Van Orden on the Centex Child Protection Court — one of 15 specialty courts in the state created to handle cases involving the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Van Orden — who has been on the bench for 18 years — will retire Oct. 15.

Cornish was not available for comment on Friday.

Billy Ray Stubblefield, the presiding judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region, appointed Cornish to the seat.

Bell County Commissioner Bill Schumann said Cornish will be sworn in on Oct. 11.

Cornish runs his own law practice — the Cornish Law Firm. He has been a lawyer since 2008.

Cornish earned his law degree from Creighton University in Nebraska in 2008 and has a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of Northern Iowa. Prior to attending law school, Cornish served nine years in the Army — including being stationed at Fort Hood in 2001.

The Centex Child Protection Court recently added a judge — Dallas Sims, a former Bell County assistant attorney. Sims was sworn into the job Monday. Stubblefield appointed Sims to the seat.

The Texas Legislature earlier this year called for an additional judge to handle the growing number of CPS cases in Bell County. There are an estimated 450 cases and 850 children under CPS’s temporary or permanent managing conservatorship in Bell County, according to county data.

“This opportunity gives Bell County some extra time for these kids who need it,” Sims told more than 70 people at the Bell County Courthouse after being sworn in. “I hope to do that, and I hope to do it well.”

Belton spokesman Paul Romer said the city is seeking applications for its city prosecutor job. The position is contracted and the person selected must be approved by the City Council.

As city prosecutor, a person would lead Belton’s municipal court, which processes Class C misdemeanors from people violating city ordinances and traffic citations.

The job requires an estimated 8 to 10 hours of work every month, and has an annual salary of $12,000. If interested, send an email and resume to mgarcia@beltontexas.gov by Wednesday.

“It’s a good opportunity for a local attorney,” Romer said, adding the city is aiming to have a new prosecutor by the next City Council meeting on Sept. 24.

Prior to 2017, City Attorney John Messer served in two roles: Leading the municipal court and offering legal advice to the City Council. The duties were divided so that Messer could continue offering legal advice to the Council while another person operated the municipal court.