Judge Jay Weatherby issues message about court hearings, trials, family and civil court cases

Local News

Message from Judge Jay Weatherby, Judge, 340th District Court and Local Administrative Judge : “We have received many questions regarding scheduled conferences, hearings and trials at the Tom Green County courthouse. As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, the answers to many of those questions have changed daily (if not hourly). We have attempted to move forward with those matters that are considered to be “essential,” to the extent that we can do so while making the health, safety and well-being of the people of Tom Green County our highest priority.

On March 13, 2020, in recognition of the public health concerns as we knew them to be on that date, the District Courts and County Courts at Law of Tom Green County canceled all jury trials scheduled for the month of March, 2020. In the days that followed, Governor Abbott declared a state of disaster and issued several executive orders; the Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals issued emergency orders regarding the administration of justice; and the Texas Office of Court Administration issued recommendations for proceeding under those executive and emergency orders. Those orders and recommendations placed restrictions on the types of hearings that Texas courts can hold, the manner in which those hearings may be held, and the number of people who may be present for those hearings. As a result, courts in Tom Green County are now extremely limited as to the types of cases that may be heard and the manner in which those cases may be addressed.

Jury Trials – The typical jury panel that is called for District Court cases in our county consists of 65-70 people (all of whom are gathered into a room and seated shoulder to shoulder). Because of the current limit on the number of people who may gather, it is not possible to proceed with jury trials at this time.

ALL TOM GREEN COUNTY JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, COUNTY COURT AT LAW AND DISTRICT COURT JURY TRIALS SCHEDULED FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL HAVE BEEN CANCELLED. POTENTIAL JURORS DO NOT NEED TO APPEAR.

Bench Trials – Bench trials in criminal matters will not likely occur at this time. Although we are not dealing with the large numbers required for a jury trial, we are still typically dealing with numbers of people in excess of the stated limit. Additionally, most of these trials would require our First Responders to appear in court at a time when law enforcement resources are already spread very thin.

Bench Trials/Hearings in Civil and Family Law Matters – These trials and hearings are also limited to fewer than 10 attendees, and have been limited by emergency order to those matters that the Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals deem to be “essential.”

That being said, all of the judges have worked tirelessly for the past couple of weeks to learn and implement Zoom video conferencing, and to adjust/recreate their administrative processes and

procedures accordingly. We believe that this will allow for attorneys and parties to attend many types of hearings remotely, thus avoiding a risk to their health.

We are working daily to inform all parties of the status of their setting(s). If you have a question about your case or a scheduled court appearance, please contact the Court Administrator for the court in which you are scheduled to appear.

We will continue to monitor the situation in an effort to assure as little disruption of court processes as possible. We will do our best to make the public aware of any changes in those processes as they occur. Thank you for your patience and cooperation.”

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