How Have Texas Courts Adapted under COVID-19?
We hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy! As our community struggles to navigate and adapt to a ‘new normal,’ we are learning that we are resilient and that we ultimately can adapt. But, how have Texas Courts adapted under this ‘new normal’ under COVID-19?
How have we adapted under COVID-19?
We have acquired new skills for living, surviving, and thriving. And we are doing so as we navigate systemic adaptations to our former notions on health, economy, employment, schools, social and political ideology, travel, and housing. We have shifted our lives during the menace of catastrophic disease and have enhanced our competency in a multitude of new practices. For example, we have learned to:
- Work and attend school remotely
- Maintain proper social distance
- Reinforce supply chains
- Maintain adequate medical equipment and testing
- Engage in public dining on patios &
- Practice simple handwashing!
How have Texas Courts adapted under COVID-19?
Aside from the apparent transformations COVID-19 has bestowed on a myriad of institutions, many of you have recently inquired about the revolutionary impact COVID has presented to Texas courts. Have judges and magistrates successfully crafted rational, fair protocols to fashion a system accessible to all citizens?
The good news is that the Court has also adapted! Excluding anticipated procedural delays and protracted scheduling lags for holding hearings and trials, the Supreme Court of Texas has restructured and modernized their systems, devising widespread measures for preserving Texan’s accessibility to courts during a pandemic.
Currently, most court proceedings occur remotely (by teleconference or videoconference), unless participants cannot successfully participate remotely. Moreover, Texas courts may modify deadlines through December 1, 2020. Except for criminal cases where punishment may result in confinement, courts may conduct remote jury proceedings so long as objections to the remote jury are permitted for 7 days.
Effective October 1, 2020, Texas courts are not required to initiate “in-person” proceedings, including jury trials. But, if a court elects to hold proceedings “in-person,” the court must first present an operating plan to the regional presiding judge’s county or municipality, following consultation with the county judge, mayor, and local health authorities. An operating plan for “in-person” jury proceeding must contain the following components:
- Protections for the health of judges and staff;
- Scheduling to reduce occupancy;
- Providing notice to vulnerable individuals/caretakers;
- Social Distancing;
- Guaranteeing access to hygiene supplies; &
- Ensuring frequent cleaning of surfaces.
How can we protect what matters most under COVID-19?
COVID-19 has touched every aspect of our lives, including our courts. In this challenging era, it’s imperative that we take care of ourselves and take precautions to “protect what matters most.” If you feel overwhelmed by a legal matter, the Law Office of Dana L. White can assist you in the areas of family law, wills/trusts/estate planning, general civil litigation, immigration, and business law. You can schedule a consult via Zoom by contacting 817.917.8121.