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No jury trials, no juries empaneled at criminal district, county courts in Bexar County

Courts still holding hearings, accepting pleas

An empty central jury room and light hallway traffic tell the story.

Coronavirus concerns have slowed courtroom proceedings in Bexar County significantly, but things have not stopped.

“Jury trials will be resuming as soon as possible,” local administrative judge Ron Rangel said Monday. “Until that time, all of the provisions possible are being made to avoid speedy trial issues and constitutional issues.”

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court have issued a joint order allowing judges to modify court procedures within the boundaries of the constitution.

“We’d like to have our dockets continue,” said 186th District Court Judge Jefferson Moore. “We don’t want to get backed up, but at the same time we’re also very aware of the issues surrounding the COVID-19 virus.”

Rangel has issued a series of orders that allow district and county court judges to continue to hold “in person” hearings and sentencing proceedings and other pressing matters at the court’s discretion.

Grand juries will continue to meet, although on a reduced schedule.

The orders will remain in effect through May 1.

On Monday afternoon, the Bexar County Justice of the Peace courts decided to delay criminal and civil trials scheduled through April 16 until further notice. In addition, court dockets scheduled through April 16 will be continued except for those deemed “essential court proceedings,” which are limited to writs of re-entry, writs of retrieval, magistration of defendants in custody and of fugitives of justice and repair and remedy cases that materially affect the physical health and safety of a tenant.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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