The District Courts serving Aransas, Bee, Live Oak, McMullen and San Patricio counties, which consist of the 36th, 156th, and 343rd District Courts, have announced the reopening of the District courtrooms throughout their five counties. The Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, along with Governor Gregg Abbott, gave Texas Trial Courts the unprecedented ability to hold videoconference hearings during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Local Administrative District Judge Janna Whatley submitted COVID-19 Operating Plans to the 4th Regional Presiding Judge Sid Harle to allow in person hearings, if needed, to resume in the Justice, County, County Courts at Law, and District Courts in the five counties after June 1.
At this time the District Courts in these five counties will continue to use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely. In the event a matter is set for in-person hearings, the COVID-19 Operating Plans for the Judiciary will be followed along with special attention to social distancing requirements, wearing of personal protection, and any requirements from the County Commissioner’s Court and the local health authority of that county.
Judge Whatley, Judge Starr Bauer, and Judge Patrick Flanigan preside over the three district courts and at this time they do not anticipate calling citizens for jury duty, with the exception of Grand Jury, until after Sept. 1. This date could be pushed further back depending on the state’s highest courts’ and Gov. Abbott’s directions.
All three District Judges feel they are in fortunate and unique positions since their five counties have large courtrooms that allow for social distancing, as well as public access to the courtrooms. The judges and court staff realize court procedures will be different when jury trials resume and the judges are determined that everyone appearing in person in their court always feel safe.
If a matter is set for in-person hearing in a District Court in any of the five counties, requests for a videoconference hearing can be made to the court presiding over that hearing.
The District Judges’ office can be reached by phone at (361) 364-9310 or via email. Information, including email addresses, can be found at the court’s web page 36-156-343districtcourts.org.