More than a year after COVID-19 caused jury trials to be suspended, Hays County District Courts will resume jury trials beginning Monday, June 7. Hays County Courts-at-Law will resume for jury trials on July 6. Judicial officials say with jurors returning, new health safety standards will be in place.
“It is important that we ensure the health and safety of litigants, attorneys, visitors, court staff, judges and any other individual entering the buildings housing the courts,” said Judge Gary Steel, who serves as the Local Administrative District Judge.
Steel was instrumental in coordinating the health safety standards among Hays County judges/courts, including the District Court, County Courts-at-Law and Justices of the Peace.
“Face coverings are optional but social distancing will be consistent with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Steel said. “Protective protocols may be required for: hearings on objections or motions related to proceedings, communication protocols, summoning jurors.”
Each judge will require the respective parties to communicate with the court if any participant in a jury proceeding has tested positive for COVID-19 within the previous 30 days, currently has COVID-19 symptoms or has recent known exposure to COVID-19.
“Judges may permit witnesses to testify remotely via videoconference, especially if the individual has symptoms or a recent positive test for COVID-19, has been recently exposed, or is vulnerable to contracting COVID-19,” Steel said.
Vulnerable populations are individuals over age 65 and individuals with underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those who immune systems are compromised. Jurors who believe they meet one or more of these criteria may contact the District Clerk’s Office at 512.393.7660 to be excused. This includes teleconferencing, hybrid teleconferencing or an in-person proceeding in a limited access courtroom.
Judges may limit the use of physical or paper exhibits/evidence where reasonable by converting the exhibit/evidence to a digital form as well as limiting the passing and shared use of microphones during the jury proceeding.
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