Texas Supreme Court order OKs virtual jury trials

Order applies to civil court jury trials only

SAN ANTONIO – In the Texas Supreme Court’s most recent order addressing jury trials during the pandemic, it said virtual civil court jury trials can be conducted starting Oct. 1.

“Courts can compel attorneys for both sides, whether they agree or not, to have a virtual jury trial,” Local Administrative Judge Ron Rangel said, referring to the order Monday.

He said he is troubled by the word “compel.”

“I personally would not compel any virtual jury trial because, for me, most of what we do in a courtroom cannot be replicated on a computer screen,” Rangel said.

He said that he questions virtual trials, period.

“Part of what compels us to want to be involved in a jury trial is the human element, and so for me, the virtual aspect of that removes the human element,” Rangel said.

In his order, which he is drafting this week, Rangel said he has moved the date for virtual jury trials in Bexar County to begin on Nov. 1.

“Then it will be up to the individual judges,” he said.

Rangel plans to present his local order to the judges, as well as Regional Administrative Judge Sid Harle by week’s end.

Harle will have the option to either accept or reject the order.

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.