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Justice system marches on in Texas during COVID-19

Oped by Commissioner Cook published in the National Association of Counties Organization's County News

  • 11 June 2020
  • Author: Doris Sanchez
  • Number of views: 2456

Court-at-Law Judges Doug Arnold (Three), Brandy Hallford (One), and District Judges Stacey Mathews of the 277th Court and Rick Kennon of the 368th Court continue collaborating on jury trial procedures.

The Office of Court Administration is providing guidance on when these procedures can begin, but that won’t be until after June. The office is also exploring technology options for empaneling juries.

The strong collaboration between IT and the courts means that participants in hearings could be almost anywhere — including jails and juvenile detention facilities. Through technology, the district attorney’s office and law enforcement officers can appear remotely, and the judge can electronically sign search and arrest warrants.

Staffs from the sheriff’s office and juvenile services identified spaces in secure facilities where technology could be established to allow in-custody adult and juvenile defendants the ability to participate in hearings.

Many of the in-custody jail call procedures were developed at the direction of 26th District Court Judge Donna King, who ensured individuals in custody had the opportunity to resolve their cases.

All the innovation and ingenuity culminated in the first virtual hearing on March 24. On March 26, felony jail call dockets (a court procedure for scheduling hearings, trials and related matters) along with magistration hearings (held seven days per week) started.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, justice continues to be served through a human/technology evolution.

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