158th DISTRICT COURT COVID REQUIREMENTS (THIS PERTAINS TO CASES IN THE 158th DISTRICT COURT ONLY)
Due to issues with the Covid virus resurgence, along with evidence that NONE of the current vaccines (or supposed immunity due to prior infection) are 100% effective against the current Delta variant, anyone attending Court MUST wear a mask.
Due to taking a proper record, DURING a Hearing, while on the record, witnesses cannot testify while masked, and attorneys must remove their masks if making objections or asking questions.
If there is a special request due to concern regarding Covid exposure, please notify the Court Administrator, so that the Court can attempt to make special provisions, such as a Hearing by Zoom. Any Hearing by Zoom must be by agreement of all the attorneys, as a proper record cannot be taken otherwise. The Judge will make a FINAL determination of in-person or Zoom, if the attorneys cannot agree.
The monthly UNCONTESTED Monday & Tuesday CPS/DFPS dockets will be by Zoom. Trial Announcements, Trials and CONTESTED Hearings are IN PERSON and should be scheduled appropriately.
Friday Criminal dockets will ONLY allow in-person attendance by Defendants for:
Defendant does not have an attorney;
Instruction from bondsman to appear;
Instruction from the Judge.
Docket Reset forms, Pass Slips, MUST be signed by the Defendant, UNLESS they are incarcerated. Obtain the reset form in advance from the Court Administrator, electronic or otherwise, and forward it to the Defendant for signature. There are numerous means by which the Defendant can return the signed form to counsel, for submission to the Court. These reset forms will be a part of the Court’s record. Failure to sign will likely result in bond forfeiture or the bond being held insufficient.
All FODP (First Offender Drug Program) dockets will be by Zoom.
Wednesday Criminal dockets, OTHER THAN FODP cases, will require in-person appearance of the Defendant, UNLESS the Judge excuses appearance prior to the docket.
Again, ALL Criminal Defendants that are set for Plea, along with Defendants that do not have an attorney, MUST appear in-person or be subject to their bond being held insufficient or forfeited.
Any Defendants that are in jail and entering a Plea that will result in immediate release, and whose plea may be delayed by Medical lockdown at the jail, should seek a Personal Recognizance Bond so that their release from jail is NOT DELAYED!
Attorneys MAY appear for a Plea by Zoom, but Defendants MUST be in person. Zoom link will be emailed by the Court Administrator, upon request by the attorney.
By Order Of Judge Steve Burgess 158th Judicial District Court
Postscript: There have been multiple local attorneys that have tested positive for Covid in the past week, or been exposed to persons testing positive. By allowing Zoom pleas and hearings, I hope to keep the Court functioning without significant disruption. Attorneys are able to continue to attend hearings and take care of clients in situations where they are otherwise asked to self-quarantine. Jury Trials WILL still proceed in-person as scheduled!
Please understand that these requirements apply to the 158th only. DO NOT EXPECT ANY OTHER COURT TO FOLLOW WHAT THIS COURT IS DOING. These requirements are put in place to best address the concerns and desires of Judge Burgess ONLY.