COVID-19 impacts Stephen County courts
Due to the pandemic of COVID-19, Stephens County will have modifications to the local judicial system. These modifications include suspension of court proceedings, motions and trials.
“We will still be able to do hearings, so we’re not canceling everything, but upon a recommendation from the state of Texas, we can’t do anything face to face,” 90th Judicial District Judge Stephen Bristow said. “I intended to have small hearings or hearings with the least amount of people. I didn’t want people to crowd the court, didn’t want big dockets or jury trials and I received calls from district judges from multiple counties and we’re all doing the same thing. Most will do video conferences and will limit the work of the courts to emergencies, such as the removal of a child from a dangerous situation and restraining orders.”
The suspension also includes various civil cases including evictions and small debt claims, according to a press release from Stephens County. The county will also reschedule appearance dates for Traffic/Class-C citations.
“The courthouse will have new hours soon for seniors,” Judge Michael Roach said. “The hours of 9 to 11 a.m. will only be for seniors who are age 60 years of age or older. This will include those individuals who have underlying health conditions and citizens susceptible to COVID-19.”
These directives are from the Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Supreme Court and the Office of Court Administration and are enforced to prevent the community spread of COVID-19.
Due to the virus, the Texas Justice Court Training Center (TJCTC) has put out recommendations for the Justice of the Peace officials around the state.
According to a press release from the TJCTC, “For a death with no foul play or suicide suspected, you may want to ask if there was a fever, flu-like symptoms, or pneumonia symptoms. If so, this would be the kind of inquest that would be reasonable to do via phone.”
The emergency order allows courts to modify or suspend any deadlines and procedures to avoid risk to court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors and the public and is enforced until Friday, May 8.
Governor Abbott also granted a temporary extension for citizens with an expired 30-day temporary permit to obtain another permit or Texas registration.
The temporary waiver is in effect until 60 days after TxDMV notifies the public that normal vehicle registration, vehicle titling and related services have resumed.
The purpose of the waiver is to prevent customers from having to physically visit the Stephens County Tax Assessor-Collector office to obtain initial registration, to obtain a 30-day temporary permit, to transfer title, or to renew the registration or a permanently disabled parking sticker.
Stephens County officials will continue to monitor the situation surrounding the spread of COVID-19.