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Bexar County probate, mental health courts deemed ‘essential’ during pandemic

Operating primarily remotely is challenging, judge says

SAN ANTONIO – With only prosecutors and the public defenders in his probate courtroom, Judge Oscar Kazen got another week of working under pandemic-dictated guidelines Monday.

“The lawyers out there are working as hard as they can, trying to do as much as they can, remotely and on the computer,” Kazen said.

“I’m old school. I like having paper files. It takes some getting used to," prosecutor Jennifer Mazza said.

Bexar County judge conducts court hearings from home

Public defender Sandra Carseat agrees.

“It’s a little bit of a different challenge,” she said.

“When attorneys are right in front of you, they go at it,” Kazen said with a smile. “When attorneys are on the screen, they seem to think a little more before they speak, and that makes hearings a little more pleasant.

Debrief: How the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the criminal justice system in Bexar County

“It’s times like these that really show what this place is about. Those prosecutors out there, the public defenders, the clerks, the staff -- all these people keeping this place going on a skeleton crew because they’re essential personnel. And they’re just as scared as anybody else."

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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