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District judge discusses COVID-19 impact on courts

The 90th Judicial District Court Judge, Stephen Bristow, gave an update last Tuesday regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the courts in Stephens and Young Counties and how proceedings are moving forward with a majority of the restrictions lifted.

As the 90th District Judge, Bristow covers Stephens and Young Counties and hears all family law cases such as divorce, child custody and similar cases. He hears land disputes and other cases regarding land as well as all criminal cases which carry penalties in the penitentiary along with death penalty cases. He also has exclusive jurisdiction on contested juvenile cases and signs search warrants.

Bristow said after the grand jury a week before in Young County which had 60 cases, the county has 432 cases pending. The judge said that is an increase of about 20-25% since the court was unable to try those felony cases before a jury. He said in Stephens County there are also around 300 felony cases pending.

Judge Bristow said the most challenging part of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the limitation on jury trials. He said the county is working on moving trials forward. He said one difficulty is that those summoned to the courthouse for a trial can opt out with little penalty for doing so which he added makes it difficult to put a court case together. As of now the current COVID-19 restrictions are effective until Aug. 1.

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