Civil district courts in Bexar County prepare to reopen after months-long closure

Courts shut down for three months amid COVID-19 fears

The mid-March closure of the Bexar County Courts complex amid the coronavirus pandemic had a devastating effect on the local justice system, according to District Court Judge Peter Sakai.

SAN ANTONIOEditors note: While judges are returning to the complex, hearings will still be conducted remotely until a plan for in-person hearings has been finalized. Currently, there is no concrete start date for that, officials said.

Original story:

After closing in mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Bexar County courts complex will reopen next week, according to District Court Judge Peter Sakai.

“(The closure) was a devastating impact on our whole, entire justice system,” Sakai said Wednesday, as he and his 13 judicial colleagues prepared for Monday’s reopening of the complex.

Bexar County courtrooms soon to have new look

They all began to embrace the new concept of working remotely immediately.

“We’re probably 60-to-70(percent) capacity of what we were hearing,” Sakai said. “We’re easily back on, and all 14 judges are hearing cases remotely.”

But like their criminal court counterparts, the civil judges are facing a big problem.

Bexar County criminal district courts operating under new order

“We have a backlog in the sense of responding to attorneys who are asking for in-person hearings," Sakai said.

He said he is optimistic about reopening since remote hearings will continue to be an option for resolving civil matters.

“They can just log onto their computers and participate in their civil case,” Sakai said. “The old school of coming down to the courthouse may be going away.”


About the Authors:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.