Court Coronavirus Information
- Best Practices for All Court Proceedings During COVID-19 Pandemic (Updated May 2021)
- Petit Juror COVID-19 Pre-Screening Questionnaire
- Remote Juror Questionnaire
- Report: Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Observations & Recommendations (Issued August 2020)
January 20, 2022
Supreme Court Issues New General Emergency Order
The Supreme Court issued the Forty-Seventh Emergency Order that replaces the previous general emergency order (Forty-Fifth) that was set to expire on February 1. The Forty-Seventh Emergency Order leaves in place all provisions of the prior emergency order (Forty-Fifth) and adds one provision regarding the extension of deadlines in CPS cases. The following are the key provisions of the new order:
- Continues the authority of courts, without a participant’s consent, to modify certain procedures and deadlines in CPS cases for certain stated periods of time;
- Authorizes the regional presiding judge of the trial court’s administrative judicial region to extend dismissal dates in CPS cases up to 60 days beyond the dates specifically provided in the emergency order without a participant’s consent upon good cause shown by the requesting trial court after the dismissal date (also provides that prior to making a request for extension to the regional presiding judge, the trial court should consider the use of alternative dispute resolution under Section 153.0071 of the Family Code and Section 154 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code);
- Leaves in place the time period for justice and municipal courts’ authority to modify or suspend trial-related or pretrial hearing-related deadlines and procedures for a stated period ending no later than March 1, 2022;
- Subject to constitutional limitations and review for abuse of discretion, continues the authority of all courts, without a participant’s consent, to require or allow remote hearings, consider sworn statements made out of court or sworn testimony given remotely, conduct proceedings away from the court, require participants to provide certain COVID-related information to the court, and take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings and participants to the threat of COVID-19;
- In criminal cases where confinement in jail or prison is a potential punishment, remote jury proceedings must not be conducted over the objection of the defendant or the prosecutor. In all other cases, continues the authority of courts to conduct remote jury trials without consent, except that the court must consider on the record or in a written order any objection or motion related to the remote jury proceeding;
- Provides that a timely objection to a remote jury proceeding may be granted for good cause;
- Continues the authority of the chief justices of the courts of appeals and local administrative district judges/municipal court presiding judges to mandate compliance with the minimum standard health protocols that they adopt for their courtrooms and the public areas of court buildings;
- Requires OCA to continue issuing best practices as necessary.
The Forty-Seventh Emergency Order expires on April 1, 2022, unless extended by the Chief Justice.
Supreme Court Emergency Order Regarding Eviction Diversion Program
In late December the Supreme Court issued the Forty-Sixth Emergency Order extending the Court’s Forty-Fourth Emergency Order which had addressed the closing of the Texas Eviction Diversion Program to new applicants by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Services. The Forty-Sixth Emergency Order made no changes to the prior emergency order. It continues the processes related to actions in which the defendant may have a pending application. The following is a summary of the key provisions in the order:
- Provides citation language that must be included in an action for eviction to recover possession of residential property to include a link to information regarding rental assistance programs generally rather than language specific to the Eviction Diversion Program;
- Continues the requirement that a judge confirm whether or not the plaintiff has any pending applications for rental assistance, including applications for rental assistance through the Texas Eviction Diversion Program, or has provided any information or documentation directly to a rental assistance provider for the purpose of receiving rental assistance;
- Continues previous emergency order requirements in cases in which the plaintiff has a pending application for rental assistance (i.e., abate case for 60 days, make the case confidential, inform the parties how to reinstate the case, dismiss the case after the abatement period expires without the need for a party to file a motion or request the court to do so); and
- Provides that if rental assistance is available, the judge should discuss available rental assistance programs and the procedures in the Forty-Sixth Emergency Order with the parties.
The Forty-Sixth Order expires on March 1, 2022, unless extended by the Chief Justice.
More than $1.9 billion in rental assistance has been or is in the process of being provided to nearly 308,000 households through the state’s texasrentrelief.com program. That total includes over $200 million in assistance to more than 21,000 households through the Eviction Diversion Program. As a reminder, legal aid lawyer assistance remains available in your court through funding provided by the state. To find out more, contact Lisa Melton (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Best Practices to Address COVID-Related Backlog
OCA has published strategies/recommendations regarding caseload backlogs. The recommendations were developed with input from judges, court administrators and clerks and are intended to provide “Best Practice” solutions as courts continue efforts to address the backlog created by the pandemic.
COVID-19 Case Information
Information regarding the number of new cases in the state and your counties is available on the Department of State Health Services Dashboard. Courts should continue monitoring the local health conditions in conjunction with the local health authority in your community. In addition, courts retain the authority under the Forty-Seventh Emergency Order to take reasonable actions to avoid exposing court proceedings and participants to the threat of COVID-19.