Bexar County administrative judge may extend in-person jury trial moratorium before Dec. 31 deadline

Vaccine availability, COVID-19 statistics will impact decision

SAN ANTONIO – With the COVID-19 positivity rate at 9.2% and climbing steadily, local administrative Judge Ron Rangel has been meeting with criminal and district court judges to discuss extending the moratorium on in-person jury trials.

The current moratorium will expire on Dec. 31.

“There is a variance of opinions,” Rangel said Friday. “I think, overall, the judges are confirmed, or have confirmed to me, that they do desire to focus on community safety.”

Judges divided on extension of jury trial moratorium in Bexar County

To Rangel, that means extending the moratorium.

“I do not anticipate in-person jury trials to be at the earliest until mid-February,” he said. “However, I do not see it extended much further beyond that.”

Rangel said that is due in part to assurances that a vaccine is on the way. He also plans to review the COVID-19 numbers from over the holidays into mid-January to factor in his decision.

Other options the judges discussed concerned jury summons.

“I think, initially, there were some judges that were thinking, ‘Hey, let’s throw out some summons now, and let’s try to get things going now,’” Rangel said.

Rangel said that would be a costly mistake in case the number of cases spikes.

He said he and his colleagues also discussed the backlog of cases awaiting trial.

“I don’t think that it is so significant at this point yet, that we should risk the health and safety of the community and all the participants by starting in-person jury trials,” Rangel said.

Rangel said that community safety must always win when it is a balance between community safety and judicial economy.

RELATED: Bexar County judge conducts first-ever virtual trial

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.