After Governor Abbott’s disaster proclamation earlier Friday, the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals have entered an emergency order modifying and suspending certain provisions related to court proceedings in all 254 counties in the state of Texas.
“2. Subject only to constitutional limitations, all courts in Texas may in any case, civil or criminal—and must to avoid risk to court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors, and the public—without a participant’s consent:
a. Modify or suspend any and all deadlines and procedures, whether prescribed by statute, rule, or order, for a stated period ending no later than 30 days after the Governor’s state of disaster has been lifted;
b. Allow or require anyone involved in any hearing, deposition, or other proceedings of any kind—including but not limited to a party, attorney, witness, or court reporter, but not including a juror—to participate remotely, such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means;
c. Consider as evidence sworn statements made out of court or sworn testimony given remotely, out of court, such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means;
d. Conduct proceedings away from the court’s usual location, but in the county of venue, and only with reasonable notice and access to the participants and the public;
e. Require every participant in a proceeding to alert the court if the participant has, or knows of another participant who has, COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms, or a fever, cough or sneezing;
f. Take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of COVID-19.
3. All courts in Texas may extend the statute of limitations in any civil case for a stated period ending no later than 30 days after the Governor’s state of disaster has been lifted.
4. This Order is effective as of March 13, 2020, and expires May 8, 2020, unless extended by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”
Courts across the state are amending procedures to prevent crowded court rooms, some going as far as requesting defendants not appear or even postponing hearings all together throughout March and April. Below you can find a list of local counties and their current scheduling modifications as of March 16, 2020.
Tarrant County- No dockets with defendants on bond until April 20th. Tarrant County Judges have received guidance from the Texas Office of Court Administration restricting operations to essential functions until April 1, 2020. Beginning Monday, March 16, 2020, the Tarrant County Judges have decided that there will be no new jury trials and reduced dockets until April 20, 2020. The decision impacts criminal district courts, county criminal courts, county courts at law, civil, family and probate courts as well as Tarrant County Justice of the Peace courts. However, any jury service that has already started will continue as scheduled. Tarrant County Jury Services is canceled until April 17, 2020.
Wise County- In the 271st District Court there will be no jury trials in March or April, and announcement and final pretrial dockets will require the attorney’s attendance, however defendant is not required and “discouraged from attending or entering the Courthouse for these settings”. Civil cases and family law matters will proceed as usual, however there will be no jury trials in March or April and only persons essential to the case are encouraged to attend hearings.
Parker County- In the 43rd District Court plea negotiation settings for defendants with counsel do not require an appearance, instead, the Assistant District Attorney will send plea negotiation form to counsel via email (defendants are ordered to sign and return to attorneys). Defendants without counsel are still required to appear. Contested hearings and all settings other than plea negotiation will proceed as usual however; the court is requesting that if the defendants set for pretrial that have counsel not appear.
Dallas County- On Sunday NBDDFW reported Dallas County canceled all jury trials for county criminal, civil and justice of the peace courts through May 8. Mayor Eric Johnson tweeted Sunday that a formal announcement was coming Monday.
The Law Office of David Sloane remains open for the time being.