The Fifth Administrative Judicial Region has recommended that all courthouses in its 11-county oversight cancel all non-essential hearings and jury trials through April 1 in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
The recommendation in this administrative judicial region extends to Hidalgo, Cameron and Starr counties courthouses in the Rio Grande Valley.
Missy Medary, the presiding judge of the Fifth Administrative Judicial Region, sent the email making the recommendation out early Friday afternoon after Gov. Greg Abbott declared a disaster because of COVID-19, commonly called the coronavirus.
Medary encouraged judges to hold meetings to discuss further protocols and issues as the situation changes or as issues pop up because of the limited functions of the courts.
Hidalgo County Presiding Administrative Judge Noe Gonzalez entered an order canceling all jury panels next week.
The Hidalgo County Board of Judges is expected to discuss future court operations in light of concerns related to the coronavirus on Monday.
The judges are expected to hold a meeting next week to discuss the state’s recommendations.
Medary’s recommendation is based off an email the Texas Office of Court Administration sent out Thursday, which suggested measures for all courts to take to minimize the spread of the virus through the judiciary and to the public.
“It is the Fifth Region’s position and recommendation that you follow these suggested protocols,” Medary said in the email. “Some of these protocols would be to cancel any non-essential hearings, cancel jury trials through April 1, 2020, and when possible, hold telephonic or video hearings.”
Medary recommended the courts coordinate with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office, probation officers and the sheriff’s departments to minimize jail population exposure through limiting the number of defendants inside a courtroom at one time and to practice social distancing when defendants and attorneys must be present in the courtroom.
“Because the situation is an ever evolving one, as the Region is given information from the Governor’s office, (Office of Court Administration) or the Supreme Court, we will make sure that everyone receives updates,” Medary wrote.