In March, when Governor Abbott declared a state of emergency in Texas, part of the declaration recommended that all non-essential court proceedings be suspended and that in-court appearance be discouraged in non-emergency situations. The declaration has left courts across the state scrambling to determine if, and how, to continue non-essential court proceedings. On March 13, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court issued its first emergency order regarding the state of disaster and, among other things, allowed all courts in Texas to offer individuals to participate in court proceedings remotely. In Montgomery County, the courts have worked diligently to accommodate the needs to the community while still ensuring the safety of all participants, including cancelling all civil trial settings in March and April and establishing procedures for remote attendance at hearings.
In the 284th and 410th Judicial District Courts, there are Standing Orders mandating remote hearings for all non-essential proceedings. Both courts have ordered that all court hearings shall be heard via Zoom, unless ordered otherwise. Zoom is a free online video and audio-conferencing application which can be accessed via computers, tablets or cell phones. Since the Coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has become the “go-to” tool for individuals, businesses, and courts to allow them to continue connecting people while allowing people to stay appropriately distanced. Parties have the option to appear via telephone as well, but it must be coordinated through the Court prior to the hearing.
In County Court at Law Number 2, Judge Claudia Laird is also offering Zoom and telephonic appearances for probate and guardianship matters. Last week alone, the court was able to successfully probate multiple estates via Zoom. This is a testament to the tireless dedication and resourceful accommodations made by our courts to ensure that we continue with some aspects of our pre-Coronavirus normalcy.
Our courts remain as open and responsive to the needs of the community as ever. The dedicated staff members are available by phone and email and promptly respond to requests remotely. It is also important to remember that the courts, like most of us, have been turned upside down due to the recent state of disaster. We all deserve patience and grace as we learn to navigate our new normal.
If you have any questions about your rights regarding a current or prospective civil litigation matter, it is advisable that you consult with an attorney. At The Strong Firm, we provide competent and effective legal counsel on a myriad of matters, including civil litigation. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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