Jury duty service for 8:30 a.m. April 6, has been canceled, the Harrison County District Clerk’s Office recently announced.
“(71st District) Judge Brad Morin and (County-Court-at-Law) Judge Joe Black are canceling Monday, April 6, jury selection at 8:30 a.m. upon recommendation of the Office of Court Administration in Austin for safety and health issues due to the coronavirus,” County Clerk Sherry Griffis informed in a post on the District Clerk’s Facebook page.
Petit juries are not being selected until May 1, she advised. For future court activity, Griffis said to follow the Harrison County website, www.harrisoncountytexas.org.
The following are neighboring counties and courts that have reported to OCA a closing or delay, which can be found on the OCA’s website at txcourts.gov.
In Marion County, all 276th District Court jury trials for March and April are canceled. Marion County’s 276th District Court will only hear the following cases by special settings: jail pleas; juvenile detention/adjudication hearings; writs of habeas corpus; protective orders; and emergency family law cases.
In Panola County, the Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Court is closed to the public. The staff is still present during business hours, however, to assist customers via telephone, email, fax, and regular mail. Extensions are being given for traffic violations until May 1. Civil suit filings are being accepted with no service being processed until after May 1. There will be no court appearances before May 1for civil or criminal. Payments can be made online at www.TexasOnlineRecords.com or at www.PayPanolaJP.com or by calling 1-800-444-1187; or by mailing in a money order, payable to “Panola County” and mailed to the court’s address of Judge Toni Hughes, 110 S. Sycamore Room 212, Carthage, TX 75633. The fax number is 903-693-4708. The court’s email is email@example.com .
In Gregg County, all trials and hearings are cancelled at the Longview Municipal Court until further notice. The clerk’s office is open normal hours. Defendants are instructed to contact the court by telephone, email or live chat through the website and refrain from appearing in person. Defendants will be notified when trials and hearings resume. The Longview Municipal Court service windows are closed to the public. The court staff is on duty during normal business hours to assist the public by telephone, on-line or email.
The White Oak Municipal Court in Gregg County is closed until further notice.
In Smith County, court dockets for the Tyler Municipal Court have been cancelled through April 1. Court staff and judges are present and accepting phone calls, emails and regular mail. Payments may still be made online.
Additionally, no trials, hearings or dockets will be held through April 20. The judge and court staff are still working and can answer questions via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax: 903-531-1369 or call at 903-531-1266.
Jury trials and non-essential hearings in Smith County Court-at-Law have been postponed until April 13.
Emergency orders for courts
The Office of Court Administration noted that all orders issued by the Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals expire May 8, unless extended by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The first emergency order issued on March 13 permits all judges in the state at their discretion, and requires all judges “to avoid risk to court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors, and the public”, without a participant’s consent:
■ To modify or suspend any and all deadlines and procedures 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;
■ Allow or require anyone involved in any hearing, deposition, or other proceeding of any kind to participate remotely, such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means;
■ 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;
■ Conduct proceedings away from the court’s usual location, and only with reasonable notice and access to the participants and the public;
■ 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;
■ Take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of COVID-19;
■ Permitting judges to extend the statute of limitations in any civil case for a period ending no later than 30 days after the Governor’s state of disaster has been lifted.
The second emergency order issued March 17:
■ Clarifies that child possession schedules establishing access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule are not affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic and that the original published school schedule controls.
The third emergency order issued March 18:
■ Prohibits judges from conducting non-essential proceedings in person contrary to local, state, or national directives, whichever is most restrictive, regarding maximum group size;
■ Gov. Abbott’s Executive Order limits groups to 10 or less, so courts should not schedule any in person proceedings that would cause more than 10 people to gather in a courtroom or area in the courthouse. Proceedings that are conducted remotely have no limit;
■ Examples of essential functions include: criminal magistration proceedings, CPS removal hearings, temporary restraining orders/temporary injunctions, juvenile detention hearings, family violence protective orders.
The fourth emergency order issued March 18:
■ Prohibits a trial, hearing, or other proceeding in an eviction to recover possession of residential property under Chapter 24 of the Property Code and Rule 510 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure until after April 19;
■ Prohibits the posting of the written warning required by Sec. 24.0061(d)(1) of the Property Code and the execution of a writ of possession until after April 26;
■ Permits new filings of eviction cases, but prohibits issuance and service of citation until after April 19;
■ Permits one of these proceedings to proceed only if the following three actions are met: the plaintiff files a “sworn complaint for forcible detainer for threat to person or for cause”; the court determines the facts and grounds for eviction stated in the complaint, under oath with personal knowledge, taken as true, show that the actions of the tenant, or the tenant’s household members or guests, pose an imminent threat of physical harm to the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s employees, or other tenants, or criminal activity; and the court signs an order stating procedure for the case to proceed.