en-USes-MX
Contact

Justice Center
277th District Court Judge
405 M.L.K. Street
Georgetown, TX 78626
(512) 943-1277
Fax: (512) 943-1276
Driving Directions

 
Important Notice

All cases in the 277th District Court for the week of March 16, 2020 will be reset as follows
March 17, 2020 will be reset to June 16, 2020,
March 18, 2020 will be reset to June 17, 2020, and
March 19, 2020 will be reset to June 18, 2020.

 
Announcement to the Public and to the Bar

The Judges of Williamson County take the health and safety of the litigants, attorneys, witnesses and staff seriously.Williamson County is monitoring a variety of sources, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, the Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) for the latest updates and recommendations affecting our operations regarding COVID-19. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Williamson County, or surrounding counties.The risk in Texas continues to be ranked low as COVID-19 is not currently spreading in Texas.However, it is important to have a plan.

PREVENTION FIRST:One of the recommended preventative measures is to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Williamson County has a reputation for being forward leaning when facing any challenge, so we have instructed our custodial services to increase their cleaning standards. They already have begun using hospital grade cleaning products and increased cleaning in common areas including wiping down surfaces.

In addition, they will begin cleaning all desks and surfaces that have been cleared off on Friday evenings, so please make sure to clear off your desks or counters. We also will be purchasing hand sanitizer for public areas of county buildings.

Again, the best way to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses like the flu and novel coronavirus are by following these simple steps recommended by the WCCHD:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Get a flu shot. Flu shots are available at no cost through the county health insurance at local pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreen’s and HEB. In addition, the WCCHD will give flu shots to county employees at their clinics.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

DSHS, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Williamson County Emergency Management, Williamson County and Cities Health District and other state and local agencies continue their ongoing preparations so that all of state government is working together to limit the spread of the virus and protect Texans.

This situation is very fluid.Please continue to check the Williamson County and each individual court website for updates about the Williamson County Courts response to COVID-19.Because this is an evolving situation, court processes may change.Please consider the potential exposure to your clients/witnesses who are over the age of 60 or may have underlying medical conditions.Their appearance at the courthouse should be avoided if possible.

 
General Order

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 in the custody of the Sheriff of Williamson County.
    2. B. AII requested hearings will be docketed on a central docket. Any party seeking to have a matter docketed during the duration of this General Order, shall contact, via electronic mail, Jennifer Tredemeyer (itredemeyer@wilco.org), Court Administrator of the 368th Judicial District Court (with copy to the appropriate prosecutor handling the case) and provide the following
      1. Cause number and name of Defendant.
      2. Necessity of setting
      3. Custody status
      4. Need for an interpreter or other accommodation
    3. Hearings will be held Monday through Thursday at 9:00 a.m.,11:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. in the 26th District Courtroom. Due to the limitations on gatherings, time limits will be strictly enforced. Therefore, attorneys shall confer regarding preparation of paperwork prior to the setting and must appear on time.

The Court reminds counsel and the public that all necessary steps will be taken to ensure that the District Courts function effectively and efficiently during this disaster period. As this situation continues to evolve, this order may be modified or extended. 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. All are requested to exercise patience in this unprecedented situation.

This order shall be filed with the Williamson County District Clerk and shall be published on the "All District Courts" webpage.

IT IS SO ORDERED THIS THE 17th DAY OF MARCH 2O2O

 
Regarding Court hearings in felony cases if the courthouse is inaccessible due to the Exigent Circumstances created by COVID-19 and related Cornavirus

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 Videoconference once it begins.
    6. Please be advised that the call may be recorded by the Court or Court Staff for record purposes  
  1. Key Parties
    1. District Court Judges will conduct Plea Hearings on a rotating basis.
    2. Other than Plea Hearings, each District Court Judge will manage all other hearings on their respective dockets.
    3. Amber Norton will manage the centralized hearing schedule for hearings involving inmates and will schedule all electronic hearings based on the centralized hearing schedule.  There will be limited time slots available for hearings involving inmates.
    4. Court Administrator of the Court in which the matter is set is responsible for sending out notices of hearings (including Teams invitations).
    5. Sheriff’s Office will manage the paperwork flow in the jail and ensure that signed paperwork is scanned and provided to the Court.

  1. PROCESS FOR SETTING PLEA HEARINGS
    NOTE:  AGREED DISPOSITION REQUIRED PRIOR TO REQUESTING SETTING
    1. After an agreed disposition is reached, the state will email all required paperwork, including the judgement, to the defense attorney.
    2. It should be estimated that, from this point, it will take roughly 2 days to accomplish the remaining tasks needed to schedule a plea. 
    3. PRIOR TO THE SCHEDULED HEARING:
      1. Defense attorney will schedule a time to meet with defendant via phone call taking the following steps:
        1. Call 512-943-1365 to schedule phone call with defendant, and at the same time as the call is scheduled forward paperwork to Jail.Teams@wilco.org
        2. Sheriff’s officers will print out the Plea Paperwork and provide to Defendant prior to scheduled phone call.
        3. Participate in phone call with Defendant.  If Defendant agrees to plea, instruct Defendant to sign plea paperwork and thumbprint judgment. 
      2. Sheriff’s Office will ensure that Defendant signs and provides thumbprint as required. 
      3. Sheriff’s Office will scan and email the paperwork to the Defense Attorney (and retain original)
    4. Once ready to schedule a plea, the defense attorney will email Amber Norton at Amber.Norton@wilco.org, including the completed plea paperwork, to ask for a setting for the plea. 
    5. Ms. Norton will schedule the hearing in an available time based on the hearing schedule set by the Judges.  She will then email the Court Administrator for the Duty Judge for that day, sending the time and date of the hearing and the plea paperwork.
    6. The court administrator will send a Teams Meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the setting to the following distribution list:
      1. Jail Staff:  Chris Watts & Phillip Schmidt to facilitate having the defendant appear via email at cwatts@wilco.org and pschmidt@wilco.org
      2. Jail.Teams@wilco.org
      3. Defense Attorney
      4. The State
      5. The Judge, and
      6. The Court Reporter.
    7. The Court Administrator will initiate the hearing as the “meeting organizer” in Teams.  At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will electronically sign the paperwork and forward to the district clerk for filing.
      1. All originals will be filed with the papers of the Court.
      2. The clerk will email file stamped copy of judgment to jail staff to be forwarded to the defendant.
    8. If it becomes necessary for the defense attorney and client to speak privately, the defendant will have access to a phone which will allow for unrecorded conversations with counsel, and the hearing will be recessed to allow for this to happen.  Teams should be muted from the jail and attorney inputs.
  1. PROCESS FOR SETTING ALL OTHER NECESSARY ON RECORD HEARINGS
    1. Moving party will submit paperwork through eFile, as usual, and should separately notify the Other Party that paperwork is being filed and a hearing is being sought. 
    2. Moving party will contact Court Administrator to request hearing and will advise the Court Administrator as to whether the Defendant needs to be present for the hearing, and whether the defendant is in custody.
    3. If the Defendant is in custody and needs to be present for the hearing, the Court Administrator will contact Ms. Norton to ask for a jail hearing slot (see 5d, above).
    4. The court administrator will send a Teams Meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the setting to the following distribution list:
      1. Defense Attorney
      2. The State
      3. The Judge, and
      4. The Court Reporter.
      5. Jail Staff:  Chris Watts & Phillip Schmidt (if the Defendant is in custody and needs to be present)
      6. Jail.Teams@wilco.org (if the Defendant is in custody and needs to be present)
    5. The Hearing will take place, the Judge will sign necessary paperwork in Odyssey.  The Court Administrator will ensure that the District Clerk is aware that there has been an update to the case.
    6. If it becomes necessary for the defense attorney and client to speak privately, the defendant will have access to a phone which will allow for unrecorded conversations with counsel, and the hearing will be recessed to allow for this to happen. 

  1. PROCESS FOR SETTING NON-RECORD TELEPHONIC CONFERENCES
    1. Party seeking a non-record telephonic hearing will contact the Court Administrator, with copy to the other party, via email asking for a non-record telephonic hearing.
    2. Any necessary paperwork must be submitted through eFile before hearing is scheduled.
    3. The Court Administrator will work with the Judge to set a time and will notify the Judge and all parties of the time, via an appointment.  
    4. The Judge will initiate the conference call and will add the parties into the call.
    5. The hearing will take place.
    6. The judge will direct one of the parties to send an email to the Court and participants confirming the outcome of the hearing.
    7. The Judge will make a docket entry to reflect that the hearing has taken place and its outcome.
 
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.

Click here for the full order

 
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 https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1446178/209044.pdf (… “2. With respect to the First Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster issued March 13, 2020: a. Paragraph 2(d) is amended as follows: Conduct proceedings away from the court’s usual location with reasonable notice and access to the participants and the public; … 3. Courts must not conduct non-essential proceedings in person contrary to local, state, or national directives, whichever is most restrictive, regarding maximum group size.”)

Click here to see the signed order