Tarrant County Bail Bond Specialists

How Are the Courts Responding to COVID-19 in Texas?

\"COVID-19In light of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in Texas, the Texas Judicial Branch has instated some important court proceeding and protocol provisions as part of their commitment to continue to uphold justice and maintain the health and safety of all Texans.

As of June 1, 2020, “courts are not required to commence in-person proceedings…and should include their discussions with the county judge/mayor and local health authority a proper date for commencing in-person hearings under the operating plan”. Until further notice, Texas courts are being given free rein to determine whether or not it’s justifiably safe to resume in-person court proceedings on a case-by-case and regional basis.

At this time, the general public should note that legal professionals across the board are totally committed to maintaining the health and safety of all citizens. Doing so may require postponing certain non-essential hearings and court proceedings until a later date. For essential cases that can’t wait for future litigation, virtual proceedings can be held remotely on a need-be basis to protect the health and safety of everyone involved.

Granting Statute of Limitations Extensions for Non-Essential Cases

Non-essential cases are civil proceedings that don’t require immediate attention or a quick resolution. For the time being, these types of civil proceedings are being placed on the backburner and special considerations are being given to more time-sensitive cases such as murder trials.

As per the first emergency order mandated by the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, the statute of limitations on all unfiled and future cases can be extended by an additional 30 days following the expiration of the governor’s state of disaster. Civil cases that must be filed within a specific timeframe such as personal injury lawsuits (maximum two years) can be extended by an additional 30 days after the expiration of the governor’s state of disaster.

The decision to postpone certain civil proceedings lies with the individual courts, but many legal professionals including attorneys, clerks, and judges are taking special precautions to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.

Time-sensitive essential court proceedings that can’t be postponed due to COVID-19 in Texas can be held remotely via videoconferencing, teleconferencing, or any other applicable means. Courts in Texas can and should make a reasonable effort to schedule and execute remote hearings during this challenging time to prevent the backlog of cases from piling up.

The Six Categories of Action for Pending Cases in Texas

A few months ago, Governor Greg Abbott released a statement outlining six categories of action to be taken for pending cases in Texas during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, these actions are considered to be optional and should be used at the courts’ discretion. However, they may become mandatory to avoid greater health and safety risk in the future if the situation doesn’t improve.

Deadline Modification and Extension

This action provision dictates that standard court proceedings and deadlines including motion submitting deadlines, discovery procedures, and setting trial dates could all be extended in the event that virtual proceedings can’t be carried out.

Considering the broad spectrum of cases included in this action and the fact that it’s currently entirely optional, legal professionals should examine the necessity and practicality of deadline suspensions and extensions on a case-by-case basis.

Making Remote Appearances

Keeping in line with the idea of holding virtual proceedings and hearings, the first action released by the governor also allows for making remote appearances via teleconference or videoconference in cases where in-person proceedings can be reasonably avoided.

Once again, courts in Texas can practice their own discretion and implement their own policies in regards to remote appearances during depositions, witness testimonies, and other proceedings.

Out-of-Court Testimonies

The first order instated by Governor Abbott also indicates that to protect the health and safety of everyone involved, some out-of-court testimonies are permissible and may even be legally mandated. Examples of valid out-of-court testimonies include, but aren’t limited to sworn written affidavits, declarations, and written testimonies.

Remote appearances and virtual attendances also allow for sworn testimonies given in teleconference and videoconference court proceedings.

Change of Court Proceeding Locations

This portion of the first order stipulates that the location of an essential in-person court proceeding can be changed as long as the court provides reasonable notice and explanation to all participants, giving them ample time to prepare for the change.

Under this order, courts will be allowed to once again use their discretion in terms of setting up virtual hearings and appearances.

Requirements to Report COVID-19 Cases

In compliance with the first order, participants of court proceedings may be required to report any knowledge of whether or not another participant has tested positive for COVID-19 or if they’re showing symptoms of the virus.

Other Steps That Can Be Taken

Governor Abbott’s first order of rule gives a great deal of flexibility that allows individual courts in various counties across Texas to take whatever actions they deem reasonable in handling both essential and non-essential cases.

Different parts of the state are facing varying threat levels when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, which means each county should take reasonable action to prevent further transmission and spread.

That includes limiting in-person court appearances and public interactions as much or as little as necessary and taking reasonable applicable actions to protect all court hearing participants and the general public.

How to Deal with Court Proceeding Changes in These Uncertain Times

The COVID-19 outbreak in Texas has unveiled a huge uncharted territory not just for healthcare practitioners, but also for the legal system and average citizen trying to navigate it. Many of the decisions regarding legal proceedings in Texas have been left in the hands of local county judges, which means the onus is on them to carefully examine the urgency of cases in their jurisdictions and how they should be handled. Certain cases warrant immediate action, whereas others can be postponed until further notice or heard remotely.

Looking for a reliable and thorough bail bonds service in Texas? PCS Bail Bonds offers a variety of bail bonds services in Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Our top priority is to help you get your life back on track so that you can focus on settling your court case. To learn more about our bail bonds services in Texas or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!

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