Breckenridge Texan

District Court cancels jury trials, some criminal dockets through May 8

District Court cancels jury trials, some criminal dockets through May 8
March 20
13:39 2020

On Friday, March 20, 90th Judicial District Court Judge Stephens Bristow announced that the court would cancel all jury trials through May 8, due to the threat of the novel (new) coronavirus. All District Court criminal dockets, except for some for the situations listed below, also will be canceled.

The jury trials will be rescheduled for May and June.

The decision follows the declarations of states of disaster by Gov. Greg Abbott as well as the officials in Stephens and Young counties. Additionally, the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently issued an Emergency Order.  (Click here to see that order: Court 3 20 order-exhibitB)

According to the notice from the judge, the District Court of Young and Stephens County needs to take the unprecedented action to address the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 respiratory disorder which it causes because of the need to avoid or at least limit large public gatherings. “The health and safety of the public, litigants, and courthouse personnel remain paramount concern,” the statement says.

Therefore, subject only to constitutional limitations, the District Court is taking the action to cancel the jury trials and the criminal dockets.

The following are exceptions to the criminal docket cancellation:

  • Applications for Writs of Habeas Corpus;
  • Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 17 bond hearings;
  • Matters in which the person is incarcerated and expected to plea, but only if the pleas will result in the Defendant being released from the custody of the respective county jail;
  • Time sensitive hearings required to be conducted by an Appellate Court.
  • Any other matters determined essential to the administration of justice and protection of the accused constitutional rights as determined by the judge after discussion with the 90th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and Counsel for the Defendant.

Ordering continuances of pending trials and other matters serves the best interest of the public, serves the ends of justice, and outweighs defendants’ rights under the speedy-trial provisions and under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, according to the statement.

Any matters that are cancelled during the effective period will be reset with notice provided to all appropriate parties and/or entities.

Additionally, all civil and/or family law hearings pending before the courts during the effective period are canceled and will be rescheduled after the effective period.

The following essential proceedings will be heard during the effective period:

Department of Family and Protective Services removal hearing;

  • Juvenile detention hearings;
  • Texas Family Code Title 4 family violence and protective orders;
  • Texas Family Code Chapter 157 enforcements if a respondent is in custody;
  • Texas Family Code Chapter 157, Subchapter H—habeas corpus and writs of attachment for children;
  • Family law matters seeking emergency relief, if determined necessary by the court after reviewing any attached affidavits; and
  • Any temporary restraining order or temporary injunctions that must be supported by testimony.

In all family law cases in which a temporary order has not been entered, Exhibit A (click here to see Exhibit A Court 3 20 order-exhibitA) will be entered as standing temporary orders until a final hearing. During the effective period, a copy of Exhibit A will be attached to any newly filed family law matter so as to constitute appropriate notice to all parties of the Court’ s standing temporary orders;

  • Spring Break Visitation: The District Court of Young/Stephens County take the position that any school district’s additional school closure following the week of spring break, does not extend a parent’s period of possession beyond the week designated for spring break as set forth in the district’s academic calendar in effect prior to any additional closures as a result of COVID-1 9;
  • Further, it is of the opinion of this Court that all visitation should be exercised as if school was in session. This includes summer holidays and notification requirements. Any denial of visitation will be subject to court enforcement by contempt or writs necessary to enforce current court orders.
  • The courts, when appropriate and at the court’s discretion, will consider as evidence sworn statements made out of court or sworn testimony given remotely, out of court, such as by teleconferencing, video conferencing or other means when such means are reasonably available; and
  • Any party desiring to conduct a hearing by way of telephonic or other electronic means must obtain a written agreement with all opposing counsel, and written permission from the Court. Any hearings conducted by telephonic or other electronic means will be recorded by the Official Court reporter or must be accompanied with a written wavier of a record filed with the clerk of the court prior to the start of any hearing.

Prior to appearing in any court, all parties, attorneys, witnesses, and any other participant in any matter pending before the courts must immediately notify the court of the following:

  • A suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19;
  • Flu-like symptoms; Fever; coughing; sneezing; any condition or circumstance that may result in a compromised or diminished immune system; and travel to any foreign country or any area within the U.S. that has a confirmed case.

Notice of any such condition shall be by way of email to the court coordinator of the court in which the appearance is expected. Nothing in these guidelines shall be construed to prohibit the public’s access to the court pursuant to the Open Courts provision of the Constitution, according to the statement. Any person who desires to be present at any hearing being held in court, telephonically, electronically, or by other means may contact the court to obtain information on how to observe a hearing.

“Your understanding and cooperation are greatly appreciated during this time,” the statement concludes. “The District Court shall continue to monitor the developments of COVID-19 as well as recommendations and guidance from the Center for Disease Control, and will make adjustments to these guidelines as necessary.”

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