In an effort to reduce the need for in-person appearances in court, the chief federal judge for the Southern District of Texas signed off on new orders restricting certain cases from having to appear.
Beginning Monday, any case in which the pre-sentencing report guidelines are for 21 months of punishment or more will be continued until a date after May 15, the order signed by Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal stated.
The Southern District of Texas is made up of seven divisions — McAllen, Brownsville, Laredo, Corpus Christi, Galveston, Victoria and Houston.
“If a presentence report has not yet been prepared, any party may notify the court and opposing counsel that the anticipated lowest end of the Guidelines range is at least 21 months of imprisonment,” the order stated. “If defense counsel gives this notice, the sentencing is continued to a date after May 15, 2020. If the prosecution gives the notice, defense counsel has seven days to object to the projected Guidelines calculation or to the continuance.”
If the defense does not object, the sentencing can be held after the May 15 date. If they do object, the court may either proceed with the sentencing or decide to defer it.
As always, a judge has the discretion not to follow the order, in any specific case, or in all cases pending before that judge.
It’s the second order signed off in the Southern District of Texas.
Last Monday, all three district judges who preside in the McAllen division of the Southern District of Texas, U.S. District Judges Ricardo H. Hinojosa, Randy Crane and Micaela Alvarez unanimously ruled to temporarily stop the clock on grand jury proceedings, which are subject to the time limitations of the Speedy Trial Act of 1974.
“The Court finds that failing to grant a continuance to exclude time under the Speedy Trial Act would result in a miscarriage of justice, and that a continuance is necessary to allow reasonable time for a quorum of the McAllen Division Grand Jury,” the order read in part.
The order will be in effect until May 15, unless further extended.