August 01, 2020 Feature

Persevering in the Pandemic: Texas Courts

Justice Debra H. Lehrmann

This spring, courts across the nation found themselves presented with an unprecedented question. Not a new law or legal argument but something more practical: how to operate in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With large gatherings banned, was a jury trial possible? If a party in a case was COVID-19 positive, could the party appear before a court? Were remote hearings using digital technology a valid substitute for in-person hearings? Could deadlines be extended? How were possession schedules affected by an extended spring break? Should a person be evicted when he/she was supposed to stay at home? With these questions vexing the country’s courts, the court system in Texas took the lead. The Texas Supreme Court, under its emergency power and its power to regulate the legal profession, issued orders to guide the courts in Texas through these uncertain times. Texas’s Office of Court Administration also worked diligently to facilitate the remote hearings allowed and encouraged by the Texas Supreme Court and to guide courts, attorneys, and parties in the use of digital technology. Here are some of the innovations and solutions used by the Texas courts.

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