Texas Supreme Court Issues 29th Emergency Order: What Municipal Courts Need to Know

Issued November 11, 2020, the 29th Emergency Order is effective immediately and expires February 1, 2021. The order, signed by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht (with Justice Blacklock dissenting), extends the 26th Emergency Order with amendments.

All Courts

All courts may without consent of participants:
• Modify or suspend all deadlines and procedures for a stated period ending no later than February 1, 2021;
• Allow or require anyone involved in any proceeding to participate remotely;
• Consider out of court sworn statements or sworn testimony given remotely to be evidence;
• Conduct proceedings away from the court’s usual location with reasonable notice and access;
• Require every participant in a proceeding to alert the court if participant has or knows another participant who has COVID-19 or flu-like symptoms or has been in recent close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19 or who exhibits symptoms;
• Take any reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of COVID-19.

Follow OCA Guidance

Courts must not conduct in-person proceedings contrary to OCA’s Guidance for All Court Proceedings During COVID-19 Pandemic, and must submit an operating plan consistent with the guidance.

Courts must continue to use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely.

Justice and municipal courts may not hold in-person jury proceedings prior to February 1, 2021.

A court may not permit or require a juror to appear remotely unless the court ensures that all potential and selected jurors have access to technology to participate remotely.
OCA should issue detailed guidance to assist courts wishing to conduct remote jury proceedings and should offer assistance to those courts in conducting the proceedings.

Regional Presiding Judges

The Regional Presiding Judges must:
• Ensure that all courts in the region are operating in full compliance with Supreme Court orders and OCA Guidance;
• Ensure all trial courts in each region do not conduct in-person proceedings inconsistent Supreme Court orders and OCA guidance;
• Report to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court any proceedings conducted that are inconsistent with Court orders and OCA guidance; and
• Assist local governments and courts to ensure that courts have the ability to conduct court business.

Guidance to Adjust with Public Health Changes

OCA with the Regional Presiding judges should monitor court proceedings as well as the Texas Department of State Health Services regarding the public health situation in Texas. OCA should adjust its guidance as necessary to ensure the health of all court participants and the public.

Published by markgoodner

General Counsel & Director of Education, TMCEC

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