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COVID-19 Disaster Announcements

General: Guidance for All Court Proceedings During COVID-19 Pandemic (For Proceedings on or after June 1, 2020)

21 May 2020

General: Guidance for All Court Proceedings During COVID-19 Pandemic (For Proceedings on or after June 1, 2020)

On or after June 1 until further updated1:

NOTE: Courts are not required to commence in-person proceedings on June 1 and should include in their discussions with the county judge/mayor and local health authority a proper date for commencing in-person hearings under the operating plan.

  • Courts should use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely.2 All proceedings, both essential and non-essential, should occur remotely (such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means) unless litigants or other court participants are unable to successfully participate in a remote hearing for reasons beyond the court’s control. 3 Courts may need to conduct hybrid hearings in certain proceedings.
  • Jury trials must not be held until further guidance is issued by the Office of Court Administration (expected to be released no later than mid-May for proceedings in the summer). It is anticipated that jury trials can safely resume in the summer; however, due to the unique nature of these proceedings, special attention must be provided to ensure the safety of jurors and others in these large group gatherings. Specific guidance to assist jurisdictions in planning resumption of jury proceedings will be issued soon.

Criminal: Revised Criminal Hearing Order

2 April 2020

Criminal: Revised Criminal Hearing Order

This General Order supersedes, in its entirety, the “General Order Regarding Court Hearings in Felony Cases if the Courthouse is Inaccessible due to the Exigent Circumstances Created by COVID-19 and Related Coronavirus” issued on March 24, 2020.
Due to the continuing state of emergency ordered by the Governor, and in an effort to ensure that defendants in felony cases may be heard, in compliance with the relevant orders of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court ORDERS that, until further order, hearings in felony cases are restricted to the following issues:

  1. Pleas;
  2. Emergency Hearings; and
  3. Bail Hearings.

Additionally, because of the public health risk associated with in-person gatherings as articulated in various executive orders issued by the President, Governor, and County Judge, the court ORDERS that EFFECTIVE MONDAY APRIL 6, 2020 hearings in felony cases shall continue to be conducted exclusively on an electronic basis, and in conformance with the “Revised Procedure for Setting and Conducting Electronic & Telephone Court Hearings in Felony Cases” attached as Exhibit A. Counsel should note that the procedure outlined in Exhibit A contains important refinements related to deadlines and eFiling that result from input from the bar and other participants in the justice system.
As in previously adopted orders, the Court reminds counsel that we take seriously our obligation to balance the interest of justice and the health and safety of our courthouse community and the community at large, and we request patience as our processes continue to evolve with this exigency.

Criminal: General Order: Regarding Public Access to Court Proceedings Under the 2020 State of Disaster COVID-19 and Related Coronavirus

1 April 2020

Criminal: General Order: Regarding Public Access to Court Proceedings Under the 2020 State of Disaster COVID-19 and Related Coronavirus

This General Order is issued in response to the Local State of Disaster that has been declared by the County Judge of Williamson County, as well as the state of disaster declarations by the Governor of the State of Texas, and by the President of the United States. This General Order is also issued after considering and in conformance with Emergency Orders Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster issued by the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals1.

WHEREAS, the Courts of Williamson County are open, “and every person…shall have remedy by due course of law.” (Tx. Const. Art. I Sec. 13).

WHEREAS, the Courts of Williamson County have determined that there is an overriding or compelling interest to protect the health and safety of the public, parties, and employees of the Court from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and related coronavirus;

WHEREAS, the Courts of Williamson County have determined that the exclusion of the public from in-person court proceedings is essential to reduce the risk to the public, parties, and employees of the Court from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and related coronavirus;

WHEREAS, the Courts of Williamson County have considered that there are reasonable alternatives to total exclusion or closure of court proceedings that will serve the interest of reducing the risk of exposure to COVID19 and related coronavirus while balancing the public’s access to court proceedings.

It is therefore ORDERED that, effective immediately and continuing until further order, if a member of the public desires to observe any court proceedings held in the courts of Williamson County, Texas, the requestor shall contact the court administrator of the court in which the case is scheduled at least 24 hours prior to the date and time of the court hearing to arrange for the requestor to view the proceedings being conducted through remote technology.

Nothing in this order precludes a court in Williamson County from broadcasting hearings in a manner chosen by each individual court.

The contact information for each court administrator is located on Williamson County’s website.1

If you are viewing, please mute your connection to prevent disruption to the court proceedings. VIDEO OR AUDIO RECORDING OF THE PROCEEDINGS IS PROHIBITED.

1 Misc. Docket No. 20-9042 (Tex.) Misc. Docket No. 20-007 (Tex. Crim. App.), accessed at https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1446056/209042.pdf (2. Subject only to constitutional limitations, all courts in Texas may in any case, civil or criminal—and must to avoid risk to court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors, and the public—without a participant’s consent: … b. Allow or require anyone involved in any hearing, deposition, or other proceeding of any kind—including but not limited to a party, attorney, witness, or court reporter, but not including a juror—to participate remotely, such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means; c. 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; d. Conduct proceedings away from the court’s usual location, but in the county of venue, and only with reasonable notice and access to the participants and the public; … f. Take any other reasonable action to avoid exposing court proceedings to the threat of COVID-19….” Misc. Docket No. 20-9044 (Tex.) Mics. Docket No. 20-008 (Tex. Crim. App.), accessed at &am

Civil: Court Procedures for Civil Cases During COVID-19 Disaster

31 March 2020

Civil: Court Procedures for Civil Cases During COVID-19 Disaster

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of disaster declared by the Governor, the Stay Home Stay Safe Order issued by Williamson County and the Emergency Orders that have been issued by the Supreme Court of Texas,1 and to protect the due process rights and public health of all citizens, the 26th District Court has suspended in-person hearings until at least May 11, 2020 and all jury trials until at least June 1, 2020. In the interim, hearings may be conducted via Microsoft Teams video conference application as deemed necessary by the Court. For specific instructions on obtaining and using the Team App, see Hearing Procedure and How To’s below.

All in-person hearings and jury trials currently scheduled during this state of disaster are hereby postponed and will be rescheduled. Contact the Court to reset your case to a date after May 11, 2020. It should be noted that this date is subject to being extended as conditions change. All updates will be posted on the 26th Judicial District Court webpage. https://www.wilco.org/Elected-Officials/District-Courts/26th-District-Court

Attorneys and litigants are strongly encouraged to continue to diligently work their cases in order to reach an agreement or otherwise prepare for trial. To that end, and to ensure the civil justice system functions as efficiently as possible under the circumstances, lawyers and litigants may request telephonic or video hearings to resolve their disputes. Submission requests will be considered for all uncontested matters.

  1. All pleadings must first be filed and accepted by the district clerk's office before requesting a hearing.
  2. The court will determine whether to grant a requested hearing and the procedures for introducing evidence.
  3. If approved, requested hearings announcing less than 1 hour will be heard on Tuesday mornings of each week. Approved hearing requests announcing for more than 1 hour will be heard on Wednesday mornings. To request a hearing via Microsoft Teams application, contact court administrator, Deb Lewis, at 512-943-1226 or by email at dlewis@wilco.org.
  4. Some matters may be considered upon written submission. Written submission requests must include any affidavits, declarations or other necessary supporting records. This method is encouraged for all agreed motions and orders, as well as for non-testimonial matters. After receiving a submission hearing request, court staff will then advise whether any further communication or briefing will be required from any party.

HEARING PROCEDURE

In the event a Teams hearing or meeting is scheduled, you will receive an email with a calendar invitation to the meeting. Counsel may access Microsoft Teams to

  1. The court administrator will send a Teams Hearing/Meeting invitation at least 24 hours in advance of the setting to the following distribution list:
    1. Attorneys for all respective parties
    2. The Judge, and
    3. The Court Reporter
    4. Any designated parties or witnesses. Plaintiff and Defense Counsel must provide a list with email addresses&

General Order for Felony Cases During COVID-19 Disaster- UPDATED

24 March 2020

General Order for Felony Cases During COVID-19 Disaster- UPDATED

The Courts of Williamson County remain open, and this order is entered into with the intent of ensuring that defendants in felony cases may be heard in the District Courts with Felony Jurisdiction in Williamson County.

Because of the state of emergency ordered by the Governor, and in compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court ORDERS that, until further order, hearings in felony cases are restricted to the following issues:

  1. Pleas;
  2. Emergency Hearings; and
  3. Bail Hearings.

Additionally, because of the public health risk associated with in-person gatherings as articulated in various executive orders issued by the President, Governor, and County Judge, the court ORDERS that EFFECTIVE MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020, hearings in felony cases shall be conducted exclusively on an electronic basis, and in conformance with the “Procedure for Setting and Conducting Electronic & Telephone Court Hearings in Felony Cases” attached as Exhibit A.

As in previously adopted orders, the Court reminds counsel that we take seriously our obligation to balance the interest of justice and the health and safety of our courthouse community and the community at large, and we request patience as our processes continue to evolve with this exigency.

IT IS SO ORDERED THIS 24th DAY OF MARCH, 2020

Click here for the signed order.

EXHIBIT A

PROCEDURE FOR SETTING AND CONDUCTING
ELECTRONIC & TELEPHONE COURT HEARINGS IN FELONY CASES

  1. Hearings in Felony cases are limited to Pleas, Emergency Hearings, and Bail Hearings. 
  1. Hearings will be conducted electronically using the Microsoft Teams application. In the event a hearing or other meeting is scheduled you will receive an email with a calendar invitation to the meeting. At the appointed time, all invitees will join the meeting by selecting the link provided. 
  1. Counsel may access Microsoft Teams to join a meeting anytime, from any device, with or without a Microsoft Teams account. To join as a guest: 
    1. You will receive an email from the Court with a link to “Join Microsoft Teams Meeting.”  Click on this link. 
    2. It will bring you to a webpage where you can choose to “Download the Teams App” or “Join on the Web.” You can choose either one.   
      1. If you are on a desktop computer, “Join on the Web” is easiest.  Note: You must use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge as your web-browser to use Teams on the web. 
      2. If you are using a mobile device, downloading the Teams App is easiest. 
    3. It will ask you to allow Teams to use your Audio and Video from your computer (you must have a camera and a microphone), and it will ask you to type in your name and click “Join Now.” 
    4. This will place you in the “Lobby” for the Videoconference to begin. 
    5. The person coordinating the call will let you into the Videoconferenc

Civil: Court Operations in Civil Non-Family District Courts Under the 2O2O State of Disaster COVID-l9 and Related Coronavirus

18 March 2020

Civil: Court Operations in Civil Non-Family District Courts Under the 2O2O State of Disaster COVID-l9 and Related Coronavirus

This General Order is issued in response to the Local State of Disaster that has been declared by the County Judge of Williamson County, as well as the declarations by the Governor of the State of Texas, and by the President of the United States, and in conformance with First Emergency Order Regarding the COVID- I 9 State of Disaster issued by the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals. (Misc. Docket No. 20-9042 (Tex.) Misc. Docket No. 20-007 (Tex. Crim. App.), accessed at https ://www.txcourts.gov/medial1446056/209042.pdf)

The Courts of Williamson County are open, “and every person...shall have remedy by due course of law." (Tx. Const. Art. I Sec. 13). The Court finds that the State of Disaster requires certain steps to be taken in order to mitigate risk to the health and safety of the public, parties, and employees of the Court, and so it is therefore ORDERED that, effective March 17,2020 and continuing until May I 1,2020, unless extended by further orders:

  1. Due to the limitations on mass gatherings limiting the Courts' ability to impanel juries, all jury trials in District Court Civil matters scheduled through May I l,2O2O are CONTNUED without prejudice to either party and, consistent with the directive of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals, this Court finds that the ends of justice are served by this continuance.
  2. During this period, the parties are strongly encouraged to continue to conference in order to resolve cases, where appropriate.
  3. Under no circumstances should a person appear in Court or at the courthouse who is experiencing symptoms of any illness. The Court will have the capability to conduct hearings in person, telephonically, and electronically. Notwithstanding the limits placed on the Courts in the interest of public health, employees, including chambers staff, will be teleworking between this date and May 11,2020 and are available by phone or email. Electronic filings shall continue to be made through the District Clerk's office.
  4. Designation of Essential Civil Court Matters: Essential Civil Court matters include any matters where there is immediate harm to liberty, life, limb, or property.
    1. Any Essential Civil Court matter shall be calendared with the Court Administrator for the court where it is assigned.
    2. All requested hearings shall contact, via electronic mail, with the Court Administrator of the court where the case is assigned and provide the following information:
      1.  Cause number and name of Defendant
      2.  Necessity of setting
      3. . Need for an interpreter or other accommodation
    3. Phones/contacting the courts: Contact the corresponding court's website for up-to-date contact information. Phones will be set up to forward to offsite locations if necessary.
  5. 5. Parties are encouraged to submit contested motions on a submission docket where available. Contested motions to be heard on submission are:
    1. Summary Judgments
    2. Matters agreed to be heard on submission by the parties with permission of the court.
  6. Please check with each court regarding the scheduling of uncontested matters. Each court has the availability to conduct hearings through a virtual courtroom. Please contact each court for their availability to conduct a virtual/electronic hearing. These platforms include CourtCall and Microsoft Teams

The Court reminds counsel and the public that all necessary steps will be taken to ensure that the District Courts function eff

Criminal: Modified Court Dates - Felony

17 March 2020

Criminal: Modified Court Dates - Felony

Due to the public health concern associated with the COVID-I9 virus, the Texas Association of Court Administration has recommended that courts in the State of Texas modiff their calendar for court proceedings to minimize the risk of exposure to court participants, staff and the public. Below is a chart of ihe rescheduled court dates for the 26n District Court. Please note that the time of the setting will not change, i.e., if you are currently set at 9:00 a.m. your client will be reset to 9:00 a.m' on the newly assigned court date.

Current Court Date New Court Date
March 23, 2020 June 23, 2020
March 26, 2020 Jlune 25, 2020
April 6, 2020 JuJy 2, 2020
April 9, 2020 July 14, 2020
April 20, 2020 July 14, 2020
April 23, 2020 July 14, 2020
May 4, 2020 July 16, 2020
May 7, 2020 July 16, 2020
May 18, 2020 July 16, 2020

Should your client need an earlier court date for a plea or emergency setting, please reach out to Deb Lewis at dlewis@wilco.org and she will assist with scheduling the court date as we will have modified time periods through out the week to accommodate special proceedings. Also, if you have a vacation letter on file or a conflict with the newly issued court date, please email Deb Lewis at the email address listed above and she will discuss an alternative court date with you.

I greatly appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we work together through this challenging time.

Criminal: General Order for Felony Cases During Covid-19 Disaster

16 March 2020

Criminal: General Order for Felony Cases During Covid-19 Disaster

Felony District Courts Under The 2o2o State Of Disaster Covid-19 And Related Coronavirus

This General Order is issued in response to the Local State of Disaster that has been declared by the County Judge of Williamson County, as well as the declarations by the Governor of the State of Texas, and by the President of the United States, and in conformance with First Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster issued by the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The Courts of Williamson County are open, "and every person...shall have remedy by due course of law," (Tx. Const. Art. I Sec. l3). The Court finds that the State of Disaster requires certain steps to be taken in order to mitigate risk to the health and safety of the public, parties, and employees of the Court, and so it is therefore ORDERED that, effective March 17,2020:

  1. Magistration of Defendants taken into custody shall continue as it takes place at present, as a critical function of the Courts.
  2. All felony criminal matters scheduled for an in-court appearance before any District Judge in Williamson County, between March 17,2020 and May 11,2020, including any associated deadlines are CONTINUED and will be reset, subject to the restrictions set out below. This General Order shall be extended beyond May 11,2020 commensurate with disaster declarations issued by federal, state and local authorities.
    1. The Court Administrator of each court shall notiify Counsel and/or the Defendant in each case of the new Court Date, once set.
    2. With respect to cases where the Defendant is held in the custody of the Sheriff of Williamson County, Defense Counsel shall contact their client (in person, telephonically, or via other means) to advise them ofthe reset date.
    3. The District Courts hearing felony matters will remain open for emergency hearings and plea and sentencing hearings with preference given to in custody cases (See paragraph 5 for setting procedure).
  3. Due to the limitations on mass gatherings limiting the Courts' ability to impanel juries, all jury trials in criminal matters scheduled through May I1,2020 are CONTINUED without prejudice to either party and, consistent with the directive of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals, this Court finds that the ends of justice are served by this continuance.
  4. 4. During this period, the parties are strongly encouraged to continue to conference in order to resolve cases, where appropriate.
    1. A. With respect to cases where the defendant is held in the custody of the Sheriff of Williamson County, defense counsel and the state are ORDERED to conference (in person, telephonically, or via other means) within 7 days of this order, or as soon as is practicable, to confer regarding: the status of the case, any request concerning bond, discovery and any recommendation to resolve the case.
    2. B. Thereafter, defense counsel shall contact their client (in person, telephonically, or via other means) within 3 days to advise their client of the progress of the case.
  5. 5. Counsel shall notify the Courts of all necessary requests for hearings, or entry of a plea. Under no circumstances should a person appear in Court who is experiencing symptoms of any illness. The Court will have the capability to conduct hearings in person, telephonically, and electronically.
    1. A. Requested hearings shall be docketed in the order presented, and, consistent with the directive of the County Judge in the interest of public health, there will be limits placed on the number of hearings which may be held per day in order to ensure that no more than 20 people are in a Courtroom at a time. Preference will be given to cases where the Defendant is
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