Pursuant to the Texas Supreme Court’s 17th Emergency Order Regarding The Covid-19 State of Disaster, Texas courts may now modify or suspend deadlines for civil and criminal cases, except for child-welfare cases, until September 30. In child-welfare cases, the Texas courts may modify or suspend a deadline or procedure imposed by statute, rule or order for a period not to exceed 180 days and extend the dismissal date for any case previously retained on a court’s docket for no longer than 180 days. The 17th Emergency Order reiterates the status quo of following the trial court’s order in possession and access cases.
Additionally, this 17th Emergency Order permits and in some cases mandates Texas courts to allow or require remote proceedings for all participants which includes trial jurors. Courts may hold in-person proceedings, but those proceedings must follow guidance by the Office of Court Administration regarding social distancing, maximum group size and other restrictions and precautions. Effective June 1, 2020, before holding in-person proceedings, the court must submit a plan that is consistent with the Office of Court Administration’s Guidance for All Court Proceedings, and courts must not conduct in-person proceedings contrary to guidance issued by the Office of Court Administration. Texas courts must also allow or require anyone involved in any hearing or deposition, including but not limited to a party, attorney, or witness to participate remotely, such as by teleconferencing or videoconferencing.
For most cases, jury trials will not be held until August 1, 2020, at the earliest. A jury trial may be permitted prior to August 1 under certain limited circumstances which include the following: (a) if the trial prior to August 1 is at the request of the judge presiding over the case; (b) adequate social distancing and precautions are taken to ensure the health and safety of court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors, and the public; and (c) all parties to the case consent to the jury trial occurring prior to August 1.
As for deadlines to comply with statutes of limitations during this time, the Supreme Court of Texas mandated that any deadline for the filing or service of any civil case that falls on a day between March 13, 2020 and July 1, 2020, is extended until August 15, 2020. Any deadline for perfecting appeal or for other appellate proceedings that falls on a day during this period of time is not extended; however, the Texas Supreme Court has stated that requests for relief to extend these deadlines should be directed to the court involved and should be generously granted.
As businesses and organizations continue to reopen across Texas, the courts are following suit with everyone’s health and safety in mind. Remote proceedings will continue to be the primary route for court matters until further notice. If you have any questions regarding possession and access or your current or future family court matters, call McClure Law Group at 214-682-8200.