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:
- Magistration of Defendants taken into custody shall continue as it takes place at present, as a critical function of the Courts.
- 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.
- The Court Administrator of each court shall notiify Counsel and/or the Defendant in each case of the new Court Date, once set.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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. During this period, the parties are strongly encouraged to continue to conference in order to resolve cases, where appropriate.
- 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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