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  • CDC Issues Moratorium Order for Residential Evictions for Nonpayment - Updated 10/20/20

    • Click here for the Declaration form, which must be included with the citation. Click below for the form in different languages:

      Click here for a CARES/CDC moratorium affidavit, which a landlord may file to meet the requirements of the 25th Emergency Order.

      Click here for an updated eviction petition that allows the landlord to incorporate the CARES/CDC affidavit into the petition.

      Click here for the updated eviction citation, including the warning language in both English and Spanish.

      Click here for an order to abate an eviction case due to filing of a Declaration.

      Click here for a form that the landlord may use to contest a Declaration that has been provided.

      Click here for a notice of hearing on a Declaration contest, including a cover letter to be sent when the contest is filed before the citation is served on the defendant. 

      Click here for a notice of hearing on a Declaration contest, including a cover letter to be sent if the Declaration is provided after the defendant has already been served with the citation.

      Click here for an order form to use at the Declaration contest hearing to either abate the case because the Declaration is valid, or order the case to resume because the Declaration is not valid. 

       

    • On September 1, the CDC released an order (click here to read the order) creating a federal moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent (or other amounts due under the lease) for “covered persons” from September 4 through December 31, 2020. 

      This order is not a continuation of the CARES Act. It does not matter for purposes of this order whether a property has a federally-backed mortgage or participates in any sort of voucher or subsidy program.

      On September 17, the Texas Supreme Court issued its 25th Emergency Order related to this moratorium. Please review the other FAQs in this section for full details of the effects of these orders.

    • In all residential eviction cases, the landlord must include in an original or amended petition whether or not:

      1. The premises are a "covered dwelling" under Section 4024 of the CARES Act;
      2. The plaintiff is a multifamily borrower in forbearance under Section 4023 of the CARES Act;
      3. The plaintiff provided a 30 day notice to vacate as provided by Sections 4024(c) and 4023(e) of the CARES Act; and
      4. The defendant has provided a Declaration under the CDC moratorium. 

      This requirement applies to ALL evictions, even though the CDC moratorium and the 30 day notice to vacate under the CARES Act only apply to evictions for nonpayment.

      If a Declaration has been provided to the landlord, the court may not proceed unless the judge holds a hearing to determine whether they can proceed and enters a written order detailing why the case may proceed.

      Citations must include a new warning to the tenant about the CDC moratorium: The Centers for Disease Control issued an order stopping some evictions. You may be able to stop your eviction if you sign the attached Declaration under Penalty of Perjury for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Temporary Halt in Evictions to Prevent Further Spread of COVID-19 and provide it to your landlord and the court. Before signing the Declaration, read it carefully and make sure all the statements are true. The Declaration is sworn, meaning you can be prosecuted, go to jail, or pay a fine if any of the statements are not true. Find out more about the order at TexasLawHelp.org.

      Additionally a copy of the Declaration form must be attached to the citation. Click here for an updated copy of the TJCTC eviction citation with the warning included (in both English and Spanish), and click here for an affidavit that details compliance with the CARES Act and CDC declaration filing requirements. Courts may make this form available for landlords to use. 

      If a tenant provides a Declaration after an eviction suit is filed, they must file it with the court and serve it on the plaintiff. The court must then abate the case unless the plaintiff contests the Declaration and the court holds a hearing as described above.

    • The CDC order is not a continuation of the CARES Act. It does not matter for purposes of this order whether a property has a federally-backed mortgage or participates in any sort of voucher or subsidy program.

      The CDC moratorium does not apply to any evictions other than those for nonpayment of rent or other amounts due under the lease, such as late fees or utility payments. HOWEVER, the requirement of the Supreme Court's 25th Order for the landlord to state whether or not the tenant has filed a Declaration DOES apply to all evictions. 

      The CDC moratorium order provides that a “covered person” may not be evicted from residential property based on nonpayment of rent or other amounts due under a lease or agreement. In order to be a “covered person” under this order, a tenant must provide to the landlord, owner of the residential property where they live, or other person who has a right to have them evicted or removed from where they live, a sworn Declaration that the tenant meets certain qualifications. See the section on "What Tenants are Covered?" for details.

      Each tenant listed on the lease or other agreement must provide a Declaration in order to be covered by this moratorium. If only one tenant provides a Declaration, that tenant would be a “covered person” but the other tenants could be evicted.

      The CDC created a Declaration form, which is available in multiple languages in the "Documents and Forms" section of this FAQ. This specific form does not have to be used, but the Declaration must be sworn under penalty of perjury and certify the qualifications of the tenant to be covered by the moratorium.

    • This order is not a continuation of the CARES Act. It does not matter for purposes of this order whether a property has a federally-backed mortgage or participates in any sort of voucher or subsidy program.

      Instead, this order provides that a “covered person” may not be evicted from residential property based on nonpayment of rent or other amounts due under a lease or agreement.

      In order to be a “covered person” under this order, a tenant must provide to the landlord, owner of the residential property where they live, or other person who has a right to have them evicted or removed from where they live, a sworn Declaration that the tenant meets certain qualifications. Each tenant listed on the lease or other agreement must provide a Declaration in order to be covered by this moratorium. If only one tenant provides a Declaration, that tenant would be a “covered person” but the other tenants could be evicted.

      The CDC created a Declaration form, which is available in multiple languages in the "Documents and Forms" section of this FAQ. This specific form does not have to be used, but the Declaration must be sworn under penalty of perjury and certify the qualifications of the tenant to be covered by the moratorium. Those qualifications include:

      1. The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing;
      2. The individual either
        • expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return),
        • was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or
        • received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act;
      3. The individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses;
      4. The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and
      5. Eviction would likely render the individual homeless—or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.
    • If the tenant is a “covered person” under this order, the CARES Act becomes moot because the case cannot proceed. However, if the tenant is not a “covered person” either because they don’t meet the qualifications or because they failed to provide a Declaration to the landlord, the court still must consider the requirements of the CARES Act. These requirements are covered by TJCTC’s CARES Act flowchart, available here.

    • How to Handle Eviction Cases Under the CDC Moratorium and Supreme Court's 25th Emergency Order - Updated 9/17/20

      • How to proceed in eviction cases depends on two factors:

        1) whether the landlord states in a sworn petition that they have not received a declaration, and
        2) whether or not the tenant answers or appears at trial.

        In the case where the landlord swears in the petition (or an attached affidavit) that no Declaration was given by the tenant, and the tenant does not answer or appear, the court must take the sworn petition as true under Rule 510.6(b), and proceed with the case normally. Remember that the CARES Act pleading requirements still apply, as does the 30 day notice to vacate requirement if the CARES Act applies and the eviction is for nonpayment of rent.

        Additionally, if a court is informed by the landlord or tenant at any point in the process, including after a judgment but before execution of a writ of possession, that the tenant has provided a Declaration to the landlord, the court must immediately halt proceedings.

        The court must take the Declaration as valid on its face unless contested by the landlord. If the landlord contests the Declaration, the court must hold a hearing to determine whether or not the moratorium applies. The court may not move forward unless a written order is issued stating why the Declaration does not prevent the case from going forward (for example, because the case is not based on nonpayment) as well as procedure that will apply to the case.

      • How to proceed in eviction cases depends on two factors:

        1) whether the landlord states in a sworn petition that they have not received a declaration, and
        2) whether or not the tenant answers or appears at trial.

        Regardless of the filing date of the case, If the landlord does not include in the sworn petition for eviction a statement that they have not received a Declaration from the tenant, the court should not grant an eviction judgment without taking evidence on the trial date on the issue of whether the tenant has provided a Declaration to the landlord claiming protection under the moratorium and whether the moratorium applies.

        Even if the landlord says in the petition that no Declaration was delivered, the issue must still be decided if the tenant appears or answers. Since the tenant’s appearance or answer places the landlord’s sworn petition in dispute, the court should not grant an eviction judgment without taking evidence on the trial date on the issue of whether the tenant has provided a Declaration to the landlord claiming protection under the moratorium.

        The court has full authority to develop the facts of the case under Rule 500.6. If a valid Declaration has been provided, the court should abate the case until the moratorium expires. Also, remember that CARES Act notice to vacate requirements still apply to nonpayment evictions from "covered premises."

        Note that unless the landlord raises the issue that the Declaration is not valid, the court should not inquire into the five criteria that the tenant swore to in the Declaration, and treat the Declaration as valid on its face.

    • Frequently Asked Questions - Updated 9/28/20

      • Click here for a list of questions and answers from the CDC moratorium webinar, including some answers that have been updated since the webinar happened. 

      • A tenant must have advance notice of a hearing on the landlord's contest. This means if the landlord appears on the trial date and the tenant isn't present, and then the landlord tells the court that they have received a Declaration and wish to contest it, the court must reset the case for a future hearing and serve the tenant with notice of the hearing, rather than just continuing immediately with the hearing on the Declaration contest.

        If the tenant does not appear at a contest hearing, the court must first exhaust all reasonable steps to secure the defendant's appearance in court for the hearing, including a reset, especially if personal service of the hearing notice didn't occur.

        If those steps are taken and the defendant fails to appear, the landlord doesn't automatically win the contest just because the defendant isn't there, and the judge should develop the facts of the case and only find the Declaration invalid if there is specific evidence that it is invalid (or for example if there are nonpayment grounds AND other grounds, the judge could enter an order without the defendant there to just proceed on the other grounds).

        Additionally, if the court finds the Declaration invalid, the tenant should receive notice of this finding before moving forward with the trial since the tenant may have assumed there was no need to prepare for trial.

        Lastly, if the tenant hadn't appeared at the hearing, the judge found the Declaration invalid, set the case for trial, and the tenant appeared at trial and wanted to offer evidence that the Declaration was valid, the judge should hear it.

      • The Supreme Court’s 25th Emergency Order provides that any residential eviction case must be abated if a Declaration has been provided to the landlord pre-filing, or if it is provided to the court and landlord post-filing.

        The landlord may contest the validity of the Declaration, at which point the court must hold a hearing and issue written findings on the validity of the Declaration and if it is found not to be valid, the procedure for the resumption of the case.

        However, only evictions for nonpayment are barred by the CDC moratorium. Therefore, TJCTC believes that if a Declaration is filed in an eviction case that is only for reasons other than nonpayment, the court could on its own issue written findings that the case will proceed in normal fashion because it is not based on nonpayment of rent. As always, it is the grounds, or reason, for eviction that determine if it is an eviction for nonpayment, and not whether or not the landlord is seeking to be awarded rent in the case.

        If a Declaration is filed in a case is based both on nonpayment and other alleged grounds, TJCTC recommends abating the case unless there is a contest by the landlord and a hearing. If the grounds other than nonpayment are valid, the court should enter a written order stating that the case will proceed, but only on those grounds. The landlord may not be awarded back rent in a judgment in this scenario.

      • If a landlord has received a Declaration but believes it to be invalid (for example, they are proceeding on grounds other than nonpyament of rent, or they believe the tenant has not made any effort to pay rent), the landlord can contest the Declaration.

        However, there cannot be a contest without a case being filed. The 25th Emergency Order does not provide an explicit procedure for when the landlord wants to proceed despite being given a Declaration before filing, but TJCTC believes the best practice is to take the following steps:

        1. Accept the landlord’s sworn petition and contest of Declaration. The petition should include the requirements of the 25th Emergency Order, detailing whether the CARES Act protections would apply and whether a Declaration has been provided.
        2. Note the Landlord’s contest in the docket, or take a written contest form from the landlord (click here to download this form)
        3. Issue citation to be served on the tenant. TJCTC strongly recommends that a notice of the contest and the scheduled hearing is attached. Click here to download a form for court usage, including a cover letter notifying the tenant what is happening. This is critical so that the tenant understands their rights in the case, since they have already provided a Declaration
        4. Hold a hearing solely on the issue of the validity of the Declaration and abate the case if the Declaration is valid. If the Declaration is invalid, the court must enter written findings detailing why the Declaration is invalid and outlining the procedures for resumption of the case. Click here for a form to use for this order. The case may then be set for trial with reasonable notice to all parties.
      • A common question has been what if an appeal is filed and then a Declaration is provided to the landlord? After carefully reviewing the 25th Emergency Order, TJCTC believes that the court should immediately abate the case, without processing the appeal.

        The case will be paused until the moratorium expires (currently December 31, 2020) unless and until the landlord contests the Declaration, in which case the court must hold a hearing. If, at this hearing, the Declaration is found to be valid, the case remains paused. If the Declaration is found to be not valid, the judge must enter a written order explaining why it is invalid and the procedure for the case to continue, and should resume processing the appeal.

        If the court already has sent the properly-perfected appeal up to the county court, and then receives a Declaration, the Declaration should be forwarded to the county court which then would have to stay the case, unless they determine the Declaration is for some reason invalid.

      • Remember, that this moratorium only stops evictions for nonpayment of rent, and only if a sworn Declaration has been delivered to the landlord by the tenant. 

        So, nothing in this order would prevent a landlord from not renewing a tenant's lease on expiration; delivering a notice to vacate to a tenant at will or by sufferance; delivering a 30 day termination notice in a month-to-month tenancy; or delivering a notice to vacate or filing an eviction suit in these cases.

        As mentioned in other FAQ, a landlord could not seek back rent in an eviction suit based on any grounds if a Declaration has been provided to them.

        Additionally, under the 25th Emergency Order, a landlord in these cases still must include in an original or amended petition whether or not a Declaration has been provided, even though the moratorium doesn't apply to these cases. 

      • If a Declaration is provided to the landlord that the tenant meets the  qualifications but the landlord files an eviction for a reason other than nonpayment, the landlord could receive a judgment for possession, however the landlord would not be able to recover rent in that eviction suit through December 31, 2020.

        As always, the landlord would need to show that the conduct they are evicting the tenant for occurred and was a violation of the lease or agreement, and a proper notice to vacate was delivered. Also, remember that even if the landlord isn't seeking back rent, but is seeking "possession only", the eviction is still a nonpayment of rent eviction, and would be barred if the tenant gave the landlord a valid Declaration.

        Additionally, under the 25th Emergency Order, a landlord in these cases still must include in an original or amended petition whether or not a Declaration has been provided, even though the moratorium doesn't apply to these cases. 

      • TJCTC has received questions regarding the authority of the CDC to issue this order. TJCTC’s position is that the order should be followed by courts unless and until a binding determination has been made that the law is not valid. The CDC is relying on the language in 42 CFR 70.2 (read here) and Section 361 of the Public Health Act (42 USC 364) (read here). 

      • If a constable executing a writ of possession in a nonpayment of rent eviction discovers that a tenant claims to have delivered a Declaration to the landlord, the constable should immediately notify the court of the Declaration and wait for an order from the court to resume execution of the writ.

        The court should expedite a hearing on the matter, and if a valid Declaration was delivered, should abate the case until the moratorium expires. 

      • No. Rent will continue to accrue during the period of moratorium, even for “covered” tenants. Additionally, unlike during the CARES Act moratorium, late fees, penalties, and interest can be assessed by a landlord for a tenant’s failure to timely pay rent, even though a landlord may not take steps to evict a tenant for failure to pay these amounts until after the moratorium expires.

      • Yes. TJCTC has made the form available in multiple languages both on this page, as well as on its SRL page which tenants can be referred to. Additionally, TJCTC recommends that courts make the form available both in-person and on court websites. 

        In its 25th Emergency Order, the Supreme Court ordered that the Declaration must be sent with all eviction petitions. While they were silent about cases that had already been served, clearly it is permissible, if not mandatory, for courts to provide a copy of the Declaration as well as the notice that must now be included in citations to all tenants in pending eviction cases.

      • Yes. Courts can include on the petition a place for a landlord to certify that they have not received a Declaration that the tenant is a covered person (or that the grounds are for something other than nonpayment) and could also note that landlords proceeding with a nonpayment eviction of a “covered person” despite receiving a Declaration can face severe penalties under federal law:

        Individual: up to $100,000 fine, or 1 year in jail, or both if the violation does not result in a death; or up to $250,000 fine, or 1 year in jail, or both, if the violation does result in a death. 

        Organization: up to $200,000 fine per event if the violation does not result in a death; or up to $500,000 fine per event if the violation does result in a death. 

        TJCTC has provided an affidavit that landlords can use to satisfy all of the requirements of the 25th Emergency Order (click here to download the affidavit) - Special Thanks to Tammy Jenkins and Hon. Christopher Gregory. Additionally, this eviction petition includes a space for the plaintiff to incorporate the affidavit into their petition.

      • Under Property Code Sec. 24.005 (as well as Texas case law), a landlord is not required to specify the grounds for eviction in a notice to vacate. 

        However, they are required to include the grounds for eviction in their petition. The court should look to the petition to determine if an eviction is based on nonpayment, or some other breach of the lease or holdover situation. 

        ALL residential eviction petitions must contain the information required by the Supreme Court's 25th Emergency Order, but remember that if the eviction is based on reasons other than nonpayment, the CDC Declaration does not stop the eviction from proceeding. Please see the other FAQs in this section for more details.

  • Texas Eviction Diversion Program - Updated 10/13/20

    • Governor Greg Abbott on September 25th announced the allocation of over $171 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which will primarily be used for targeted rental assistance for Texans at risk of becoming homeless due to eviction. For more information, click here.

      The Supreme Court issued its 27th Emergency Order that outlines some of the provisions and procedures. This order, in conjunction with an order from Gov. Abbott, creates the Texas Eviction Diversion Program, which is designed to curb a surge of COVID-related evictions, assist vulnerable tenants, and provide an alternative to eviction for landlords. You can read that order hereThe program begins on Oct. 12 for certain pilot counties, and Nov. 9 statewide. 

      Eligibility for the program will be determined by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). See their page here for more information.

    • Click below for updated forms, which should only be used once the program is effective in your county, currently scheduled for November 9 for counties not in the pilot program
      Affidavit
      Petition
      Citation - note, TJCTC is seeking a Spanish translation of the diversion program warning in the citation.
      Brochure - available in ten languages here.

      Script to read to parties explaining the program.
      Written notice that may be sent by mail or electronically to parties explaining the program. 

    • Note that these procedures should be followed starting on the date that your county is participating, which is October 12 for pilot counties and currently November 9 statewide.

      Forms and Documents
      The program requires additional language for petitions and citations in eviction cases, for the landlord to swear that they have reviewed the program website (https://www.txcourts.gov/programs-services/eviction-diversion-program/) and to notify the tenant of their rights under this program. TJCTC has developed sample citation and petition forms that meet these requirements. Additionally, a brochure developed by TDCHA must be attached to the citation that is sent out to the tenant. Please see the Forms and Documents section in this FAQ on the Diversion Program to download the forms and brochure.

      Discussion of the Program with Parties
      The judge must discuss the program with parties at an eviction trial. TJCTC has developed a sample script to use. Click here for the script for reading to the parties and here for a written notice to send to parties.

      Procedure if Parties are Participating
      If both parties wish to participate, the court places the case on a 60-day hold and makes all documents related to the case confidential and unavailable to the public.

      Procedure to Reinstate the Case
      At any time during the 60 day period, the landlord may file a motion to reinstate (which should also be served on the tenant). The court then issues a written order that reinstates the case and states the procedure for the case to proceed. Note that there may be a CDC declaration in place that prevents the case from moving forward. If not, the trial should be held within 21 days of the reinstatement. Also, all records related to the case should be made available to the public again.

      Procedure if no Reinstatement Filed
      If no reinstatement motion is filed, the court must dismiss the case at the end of the 60 day period, and all records remain confidential. The case is dismissed with prejudice, meaning this same specific claim may not be re-filed, but the landlord may file a new eviction case based on breaches of the lease other than nonpayment occurring during or after participation in the program, or based on nonpayment of rent due after the 60 day window.

  • Supreme Court Emergency Orders - Updated 10/12/20

    • To help courts determine which orders are currently active, this section will provide those orders, with a link to read the full text, along with a brief description of the effects of the orders. For complete details on how the orders affect specific types of cases, please see the other topic sections on this page.

      25th Emergency Order - Effective September 17, expires December 15. Requires plaintiffs in residential eviction cases to include information in the petition about whether the CARES Act applies to the suit and if proper notice to vacate was given, as well as whether a CDC eviction moratorium Declaration has been provided to the landlord. Provides procedure for cases where a Declaration has been provided, and requires courts to send a copy of the Declaration along with a citation containing information about the moratorium. See the Eviction Cases and CDC Moratorium sections for more information. (click here to read)

      26th Emergency Order - Effective October 1, expires December 1. Broad order extending the previous authorization of delay/modification of procedures when necessary due to COVID-19 through December 1; prohibiting in-person (but not virtual) jury trials in justice court until December 1; and requiring courts to follow OCA guidance related to in-person proceedings. See the sections on guidance for in-person and remote hearings for more information (click here to read).

      27th Emergency Order - Effective October 12 for pilot counties, November 9 statewide; expires December 18. This order, in conjunction with an order from Gov. Abbott, creates the Texas Eviction Diversion Program, which is designed to curb a surge of COVID-related evictions, assist vulnerable tenants, and provide an alternative to eviction for landlords (click here to read). 

      Eligibility for the program will be determined by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA).

      Please see the Diversion Program FAQ section above for full information and to download the forms and documents related to the program.

    • This guidance on the Supreme Court’s Emergency Orders was written by the COVID-19 Justice Court Workgroup created by the Texas Supreme Court to help address issues that face justice courts during the pandemic. It has been updated to be current through October 7, 2020.

      Click here to download the guide.

  • Guidance for Remote Hearings - Updated 9/24/20

    • Courts must use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely. 
      All proceedings, both essential and non-essential, should occur remotely (such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means) unless litigants or other court participants are unable to successfully participate in a remote hearing for reasons beyond the court’s control.

      Click here for a sample Zoom hearing notice and instructions, developed with TJCTC input by the COVID Workgroup. 

      Courts may require all persons to participate remotely. With the introduction of the remote proceedings capability through Zoom, most essential and non-essential proceedings, except for jury trials, can be conducted remotely, and there are no limitations on these remote proceedings so long as reasonable notice and access is provided to the participants and the public

      Click here to watch OCA's July 31 webinar on effective remote hearings in justice court. 

      Click here for OCA's benchcard on public access to electronic hearings.

      Click here for Sample Zoom Instructions to send to parties, and see other sample forms in other sections.

      Click here for best practices for Zoom hearings involving self-represented litigants or litigants with disabilities, from Texas Access to Justice.

      OCA has established Zoom accounts for courts, and set up a page discussing how Zoom works, including a webinar, as well as creating court YouTube channels to allow public access to the courts. You can access that page here. Also, please see TJCTC's webinars on Tech Tools and on using Zoom.

      Here are some ways to protect your Zoom meetings from being hacked: 

      1. Disable Guest Screen Sharing. By restricting screen sharing to the host, you can prevent anyone else from being able to display what is on their desktop.
      2. Require the Host to Be Present.
      3. Keep Your Personal Meeting ID Private.
      4. Use a Password.
      5. Use The Waiting Room.

      Check out these articles for more information

      https://www.inc.com/jason-aten/hackers-are-trying-to-get-into-your-zoom-meetings-here-are-5-ways-to-stop-them.html

      https://www.foxbusiness.com/technology/securely-host-zoom-meetin

    • The Supreme Court of Texas has issued sweeping orders that gives significant authority and latitude to the courts during this emergency situation, prioritizing public safety.

      These orders give courts full power to modify or suspend any deadlines or procedures if necessary to avoid risk for a period ending no later than December 1st. 

      Courts may implement these strategies as needed, but must implement them in order to protect the public, including court staff and parties. Options include extending or modifying deadlines in civil and criminal cases, hearing evidence remotely or via sworn written statement, holding court at other locations within the court's county, and any steps necessary to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19. 

      This order is currently set to expire December 1.

    • The Supreme Court has extended its prohibition on in-person jury proceedings in justice court until December 1st in its 26th Emergency Order. Virtual (or remote) jury trials may be held if the following requirements are met:

      • In criminal cases, the court must consider any objection or motion related to the remote jury trial at least seven days before the proceeding, or as soon as practicable if the motion or objection is made within seven days of the proceeding.
      • Jurors may not be permitted or required to appear remotely unless the court ensures that all potential and selected jurors have access to technology to participate remotely. This can be accomplished either at home or by having the jurors appear at a court-controlled remote location instead of the courtroom or at home.
      • The Office of Court Administration should issue detailed guidance to assist courts wishing to conduct remote jury proceedings and should offer, to the greatest degree possible,
        assistance to those courts in conducting the remote jury proceedings.

      OCA has published its jury trial guide based on its observations of jury trials. Click here to download the guide. 

    • Click here to view TJCTC's webinar on Technology Tools that your court or office will find extremely useful during the coronavirus pandemic. Click here to download the accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

      Click here to watch a fun and informative TJCTC webinar on using Zoom to hold remote hearings, including a demo of a remote writ of retrieval hearing.

      Click here for an introductory webinar on how to set up Zoom in your court.

      Click here for a sample Zoom hearing notice and instructions, developed with TJCTC input by the COVID Workgroup. 

      Click here to watch OCA's July 31 webinar on effective remote hearings in justice court. 

      Click here for OCA's benchcard on public access to electronic hearings.

      Click here for Sample Zoom Instructions to send to parties, and see other sample forms in other sections.

      Click here for best practices for Zoom hearings involving self-represented litigants or litigants with disabilities, from Texas Access to Justice.

      Here is a new answer form for use in small claims cases, developed with TJCTC assistance by the Texas COVID-19 Workgroup. This form captures information about the defendant's ability to participate in remote hearings.

  • Guidance for In-Person Proceedings - Updated 9/24/20

    • Under the Supreme Court's 22nd Emergency Order, issued August 6, courts must follow OCA guidance regarding social distancing, maximum group size, and other restrictions and precautions applicable to court proceedings. Click here for a website with updated OCA guidance for handling court cases.

      Regional Presiding Judges are responsible for ensuring that courts, including justice courts, are complying with OCA guidance and Supreme Court Orders, and are to report violations to the Supreme Court.

      All in-person hearings must be held consistent with OCA’s Guidance to Courts Regarding All Court Proceedings. This includes the mandatory development of an operating plan as described below. Courts who wish to delay in-person proceedings longer or who are advised to do so by local public health authorities may do so, as long as remote hearings can be effectively held. Note that special rules apply to jury proceedings, see the separate page in this section for details.

      Courts must use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely. 
      All proceedings, both essential and non-essential, should occur remotely (such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing, or other means) unless litigants or other court participants are unable to successfully participate in a remote hearing for reasons beyond the court’s control.

      See the section on Guidance for Remote Hearings for more information.

      Mandatory Operating Plan
      The local administrative district judges in each county will be required to submit to the Regional Presiding Judge for their administrative judicial region a plan for all courts in the county, discussing measures that will be taken to protect litigants, the public, court staff, judges, and others visiting court buildings. The plans should be developed in consultation with local health authorities and the county judge.

      In-person hearings may not be held unless an operating plan has been submitted and acknowledged in writing by the Regional Presiding Judge.

      A template that can be modified as appropriate is available here to assist you in developing a plan.

      OCA Guidance on Face Coverings
      OCA has stated that under a court’s inherent power to govern the court atmosphere, a judge may require all persons who enter his or her courtroom or any other area of the building or facility to conduct or participate in a court proceeding to wear a face covering.

      OCA guidance, linked above, requires courts to address the use of face coverings in their operating plan. Therefore, how such a requirement is implemented and enforced in your court should be part of the mandatory operating plan developed by the local administrative district judge for your county, as described above.

      If your county's operating plan does not address how to proceed in the event a person does not have a face covering or refuses to wear one, we suggest you promptly raise this issue with your local administrative district judge and request that it be included in the operating plan.

      Should you have questions or need assistance with developing your operating plan, please contact coronavirus@txcourts.gov.

      Any court closure also must be reported to OCA, and more information can be found by clicking here.

      Other OCA resources related to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

    • The Supreme Court has extended its prohibition on in-person jury proceedings in justice court until December 1st in its 26th Emergency Order. See the section on Remote Jury Trials for more information.

      OCA has published its jury trial guide based on its observations of jury trials. Click here to download the guide. 

    • The Supreme Court of Texas has issued sweeping orders that gives significant authority and latitude to the courts during this emergency situation, prioritizing public safety.

      These orders give courts full power to modify or suspend any deadlines or procedures if necessary to avoid risk for a period ending no later than December 1st. 

      Courts may implement these strategies as needed, but must implement them in order to protect the public, including court staff and parties. Options include extending or modifying deadlines in civil and criminal cases, hearing evidence remotely or via sworn written statement, holding court at other locations within the court's county, and any steps necessary to protect the public from the spread of COVID-19. 

      This order is currently set to expire December 1.

    • In Opinion No. KP-0322 (issued August 3), Attorney General Paxton responded to a request for opinion on the authority of judges to require face coverings in courtrooms, courthouses, and county buildings, and how to resolve differences in separate branch orders that conflict.

      The opinion states that:

      • A commissioners court may require any person entering a courthouse or other county-owned or controlled building to wear a facial covering;
      • A county judge operating under a local disaster order could require a person to wear a facial covering when occupying a courthouse or other county-owned or controlled building;
      • Judges possess broad inherent authority to control orderly proceedings in their courtrooms, and pursuant to that authority, they could require individuals in the courtroom to wear facial coverings;
      • In addition, because of the Supreme Court’s emergency orders requiring all judges to comply with guidance promulgated by the Office of Court Administration, which requires facial coverings by all individuals while in the courthouse, courts may require any person entering the courthouse in which they preside to wear a facial covering while in the courthouse;
      • Under Executive Order GA-29, individuals who fail to comply can be fined up to $250 for an individual’s second violation of a mask requirement;
      • In addition, public officials may deny entry to those individuals refusing to wear a facial covering; and
      • Issues of conflicting orders issued by various local officials within the same county should be resolved by coordinating with each other. Which official’s order would prevail in any particular circumstance may raise separation of powers issues and would be determined after reviewing the specific orders at issue and the corresponding authority of the public officials to issue those orders.
  • Eviction Cases - Updated 10/2/20

    • Governor Greg Abbott on September 25th announced the allocation of over $171 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which will primarily be used for targeted rental assistance for Texans at risk of becoming homeless due to eviction. For more information, click here and see the FAQ section dedicated to the program near the top of this page. The program begins on Oct. 12 for certain pilot counties, and Nov. 9 statewide. 

      Eligibility for the program will be determined by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). 

      The judge must discuss the program with parties at an eviction trial and, if they wish to participate, places the case on a 60-day hold and makes all documents in the case confidential. The program requires additional language for petitions and citations in eviction cases. TJCTC has developed sample citation and petition forms, see the section in the Residential Eviction FAQ on the Diversion Program for full information and to download the forms. and updated the plaintiff's affidavit to include the required certification that the landlord has reviewed the program website (https://www.txcourts.gov/programs-services/eviction-diversion-program/). 

      Click below for the updated forms, which should only be used once the program is effective in your county
      Affidavit
      Petition
      Citation - note, TJCTC is seeking a Spanish translation of the diversion program warning in the citation.

    • On September 1, the CDC released an order (click here to read the order) creating a federal moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent for “covered persons” from the effective date of the order (September 4) through December 31, 2020.

      On September 17, the Texas Supreme Court issued its 25th Emergency Order (click here to read the order) providing guidance to courts in implementing the moratorium.

      Please see our complete section on this order at the top of this page for full details.

    • Note that a new federal eviction moratorium takes effect September 4, 2020 and runs through December 31, 2020. Please see the section on the CDC order and related Supreme Court order at the top of this page for full details. 

      Petitions, the CARES Act, and the Effects of the 25th Emergency Order
      For any residential eviction case, a plaintiff must include in its petition information on whether the property is a covered dwelling, whether it is a multifamily property currently in forbearance, whether a 30 day notice to vacate was required and given (see the CARES Act FAQ elsewhere on this page for more information), and whether a Declaration under the CDC moratorium was provided to the plaintiff by the defendant. This could be done in an amended petition, including a petition orally amended by presenting sworn evidence or testimony at trial. TJCTC has developed an affidavit that courts and parties can use to satisfy this requirement, available here.

      Note that the requirement for a 30 day notice to vacate ONLY applies to eviction cases which the CARES Act applies to (see the CARES Act section). It does NOT apply to all eviction cases. Please see our CARES Act flowchart for details.

      Issuance of Eviction Citations
      Courts may (but are not required to) issue citations now. Citations must include information about the CDC order, and a copy of the Declaration form must be attached. Click here for TJCTC's updated citation form and here for the Declaration form (this form available in multiple languages in the CDC Moratorium section at the top of this page under Forms and Documents.

      The 10-21 day trial requirement may be suspended, if necessary to avoid risk, by courts until a date no later than December 1, under the authority of the 26th Emergency Order.

      Eviction Hearings May Resume
      Eviction hearings may (but are not required to) resume now. However, note that under current guidance, they should be held remotely when possible and may not be held in person except as provided by the county's mandatory operating plan. See the section on Remote Hearings for more information on holding remote eviction hearings, including sample forms and instructions, and the section on In-Person Proceedings for more on mandatory operating plans.

      Remember that courts are still authorized to suspend any deadlines or procedures (and must suspend if necessary for public health and safety) until the authorization under the Emergency Orders of the Supreme Court expires (currently December 1, 2020).

      Click here for a sample notice for a remote eviction hearing.

      Click here for sample Zoom instructions for parties.

      Writs of Possession
      Writs of possession may now be executed. The 60 and 90 day deadlines for writs in Rule 510.8(d) may be extended by courts if needed to avoid risk, until a date no later than December 1, under the authority of the 26th Emergency Order. 

    • Click here to open a flowchart that covers processing eviction cases under the provisions of the CARES Act. Note that the CDC Moratorium restrictions also must be followed, please see the FAQ at the top of this page for more information.

    • The CARES Act was signed by President Trump on March 27, 2020, and took effect that same day. Section 4023 and 4024 are the Temporary Foreclosure and Eviction Moratorium sections that are most relevant. Click here to read those sections.

      TJCTC has a webinar detailing the CARES Act and best practices. Click here to view the webinar.

      Note that additional requirements apply based on the September 4 CDC eviction moratorium and accompanying Texas Supreme Court order. Please see those sections for details.

      Petition Requirements
      The Texas Supreme Court in its 25th Emergency Order requires that the plaintiff must include in its petition (either original or amended)whether or not: 

      1. The premises is a "covered dwelling" under the CARES Act;
      2. The plaintiff is a multifamily borrower in mortgage forbearance under Section 4023 of the CARES Act; and
      3. If a 30 day notice to vacate was given as required by the CARES Act (NOTE: The plaintiff must always include in its petition whether or not a 30 day notice was given, however, the 30 day notice is only required if it is a case to which the CARES Act applies).

      This requirement applies to all evictions filed through December 15.

      Additionally, the Court has made clear that justice courts can develop the facts of the case at trial to determine whether the CARES Act applies to an eviction case and whether the proper Notice to Vacate was given. 

      CARES Act Affidavit
      Click here for an affidavit that courts may provide for plaintiffs to fill out before receiving a judgment, swearing that their property is not subject to this moratorium, as well as the CDC moratorium.

      What is a "Covered Dwelling"?
      In short, the Act applies to all housing programs such as public housing, project-based section 8, Housing Choice Vouchers, LIHTC, etc, as well as the rural voucher program and properties with federally-backed mortgages (HUD, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac; more detailed definitions are in the Act). 

      If a property has some tenants to which these programs apply, the CARES Act will likely cover all tenants at that property, according to its plain language. This interpretation is not universally accepted, with many advocates taking this position, while HUD says that a "market rate property" that accepts vouchers is only covered for the tenants using the vouchers.

      Effects of the CARES Act
      The effects include:

      • No nonpayment (of rent or other amounts due) evictions can be filed in any covered dwelling through July 24.
      • No notices to vacate for nonpayment may be issued in any of these properties until after the 120-day period expires, AND such notice to vacate must be for at least 30 days (so it couldn't be delivered before July 25 or expire sooner than Aug. 24).
      • The requirement of a 30 day notice to vacate for nonpayment DOES NOT have an expiration date.
      • These covered properties may not charge late fees/other penalties for late payment during the 120-day period.
      • A property that is a multifamily property that is in forbearance on its mortgage may not file an eviction case based on nonpayment while in forbearance, and must give a 30 day notice to vacate if filing after having been in forbearance. These provision related to forbearance expire on the earlier of the termination of the national emergency declaration or December 31.

      For a FAQ from HUD on these issues, click here.

      What Evictions are Not Affected by the Act?
      The CARES Act does not affect the following:

      • Commercial evictions;
      • Eviction cases that were filed before March 27, 2020;
      • Eviction cases with purely private landlords with none of the funding described above; or
      • Eviction cases in which the grounds for eviction are  not related to nonpayment.

      How Can it be Determined if a Property is a Covered Dwelling?
      Landlords can go to the TDCHA website here and click on "HTC Property Inventory (XLSX)" under Additional Guidance and Resources to search a database to determine if their property is subject to the LIHTC restrictions, and can go to this website to check their property against a multi-family housing database.

      Also, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has composed a map that, while not exhaustive, has tremendous information on covered properties and may be accessed here. More resources for tenants and landlords related to the CARES Act are found on our SRL page, www.tjctc.org/SRL

      What if a Case is Filed in Violation of the Act?
      If a case is filed in violation of the Act, a judgment should be entered for the defendant. Just as in any eviction case, if the petition says a proper notice to vacate was delivered, and the defendant doesn't answer or appear at trial, the court must take the petition as true. However, if the petition doesn't establish that a proper notice was given, or the defendant answers or appears at trial, then the plaintiff must prove they gave a proper notice to vacate. If they cannot do so, a judgment for the defendant should be entered.

    • TJCTC is aware that many courts have begun receiving records request for eviction case records. Often, these requests are for courts to continually send new case records to the requestor. 

      Case records are generally open to the public under common law. This means you should release any records on existing cases. Courts can deny access to records if they will be used "for an improper purpose" and should redact personal information such as social security or driver license numbers, as well as financial information like bank account numbers.

      However, courts do not have an obligation to create new records, nor are courts obligated to honor requests for "future" records. Your court can choose to comply with the request to send future records if desired, or can require the requestor to continue filing new requests. 

      Note that many of these requests cite the Public Information Act (PIA). The PIA does not apply to the judiciary, however, these requests should be treated as requests for records under the common law as described above. 

      TJCTC is currently putting the final touches on the Recordkeeping and Reporting Deskbook. For information on releasing records until it is ready, see below:

      Click here for an OCA flowchart on releasing case records.

      Click here for an OCA flowchart on releasing judicial records (which are court records other than those dealing with cases).

      Click here for a handout on record requests and release. 

    • While there is no specific requirement in any of the Orders or Guidance that applies to this situation, remember that under the 22nd Emergency Order, that the court has the authority to modify or suspend any procedures, and must do so to protect the health and safety of all involved, including constables, court staff, and parties.

      This authority currently extends through September 30.

      Many courts in this situation are postponing the case for two weeks and then having the defendant check back in with an updated status. 

    • On August 7, Attorney General Paxton issued Opinion KP-0324 (click here to read the opinion) in response to ordinances restricting or pausing evictions passed by counties and municipalities.

      In the opinion, Paxton stated that, even in the current emergency situation, local governmental entities do not have the authority to “rewrite the Property Code.” Paxton did not specify any particular ordinances or directives that violate this guideline.

      However, Property Code Sec. 24.005(e), which governs notices to vacate, says that if “a lease or other applicable law [emphasis added] requires the landlord to give a tenant an opportunity to respond to a notice of proposed eviction before giving a notice to vacate” then the notice to vacate may not be served until after the period for the tenant to respond has expired. Many of the ordinances in question do exactly that, and would seem to be “applicable law” explicitly contemplated by the statute, rather than a “rewriting” of the Property Code. Other provisions outright banning notices to vacate may be tougher to reconcile with Sec. 24.005.

      Since the ordinances in question are local and vary in their terms and provisions, TJCTC strongly recommends that justice courts in counties or cities with such ordinances consult with their county attorney for guidance on how to proceed.

      Also note that nothing in Texas law or Opinion KP-0324 requires courts to proceed with eviction cases if they cannot safely do so, and the 22nd Emergency Order of the Supreme Court expressly authorizes courts to postpone any deadlines or procedures in order to protect the safety of court staff, parties, and the public. This authorization currently expires September 30, 2020.

      Additionally, under the 22nd Emergency Order and current OCA guidance, courts are required to continue to use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely and are prohibited from holding any in-person proceedings without first submitting and having acknowledgment from the Regional Presiding Judge of an operating plan that is consistent with OCA’s Guidance for All Court Proceedings During COVID-19 Pandemic.

    • The CARES Act does not apply to commercial evictions, since it only applies to "dwellings."  Also, the CDC moratorium and the Supreme Court requirement that a petition state whether the CARES Act applies does not apply to commercial evictions.

      Current OCA guidance is that in-person hearings may only be held in-person if the local administrative judge has approved an operating plan in order that they may be held safety (see the sections on Guidance on In-Person Hearings and Guidance on Remote Hearings for more details).

    • There has been a statewide increase in unlawful lockouts and utility disconnection during the coronavirus pandemic. TJCTC has a new SRL information packet available on Writs of Retrieval, Re-Entry, and Restoration, and it is now available also in Spanish. Go to www.tjctc.org/SRL to download this packet to make it available to parties in need of the information.

  • Non-Eviction Civil Cases - Updated 9/25/20

    • In its 22nd Emergency Order on August 6 and extended by its 26th Emergency Order on September 17 (effective October 1), the Supreme Court stated that courts must follow OCA guidance for court proceedings related to social distancing and other restrictions and precautions. See our in-person and remote hearings guidance sections for details on how to proceed, including the requirement of compliance with the county's mandatory operating plan for any in-person proceedings, as well as jury trial restrictions.

      Click here for a sample Zoom hearing notice and instructions, developed with TJCTC input by the COVID Workgroup. 

      Click here for sample Zoom instructions for parties.

       

    • Here is a new answer form for use in small claims cases, developed with TJCTC assistance by the Texas COVID-19 Workgroup. This form captures information about the defendant's ability to participate in remote hearings.

    • Courts are permitted, and should do so when necessary to protect public safety, to toll any answer deadlines that occurred after March 13 until a date no later than December 1, as authorized by the Supreme Court's 26th Emergency Order. 

      If an answer date was before March 13th, the court could only hold a default hearing in compliance with updated OCA guidance, including a county mandatory operating plan if held in-person.

      Note that the defendant must be noticed of the default judgment hearing, since it is a hearing that must be requested by the plaintiff. 

    • Judges have asked how to handle weddings during this unique situation. TJCTC believes that judges can perform weddings electronically, as long as all parties are located in Texas. In-person ceremonies should be limited, and must not exceed state and local restrictions on gatherings. 

      TJCTC further believes that the authority to perform weddings via Zoom, as long as all parties are located in Texas, would not expire when the Supreme Court Emergency Orders expire. 

  • Criminal Cases - Updated 9/25/20

    • The Supreme Court has extended its prohibition on in-person jury proceedings in justice court until December 1st in its 26th Emergency Order. Virtual (or remote) jury trials may be held in criminal cases if the following requirements are met:

      • The court must consider any objection or motion related to the remote jury trial at least seven days before the proceeding, or as soon as practicable if the motion or objection is made within seven days of the proceeding.
      • Jurors may not be permitted or required to appear remotely unless the court ensures that all potential and selected jurors have access to technology to participate remotely. This can be accomplished either at home or by having the jurors appear at a court-controlled remote location instead of the courtroom or at home.
      • The Office of Court Administration should issue detailed guidance to assist courts wishing to conduct remote jury proceedings and should offer, to the greatest degree possible,
        assistance to those courts in conducting the remote jury proceedings.
    • On July 2, Gov. Abbott issued Executive Order GA-29, requiring face coverings in public, except in counties with 20 or less COVID-19 cases which go through an exemption process. Click here to read the order and click here to see the list of exempted counties. Also note that the order includes certain exclusions, such as children under 10 years of age, people driving either alone or only with household members, etc. 

      Since the penalty for violation is a maximum fine of $250, without possibility of incarceration, this offense is a fine-only misdemeanor, and should be handled like any other fine-only misdemeanor criminal case. Additionally, the first violation only carries a warning, so the state would need to prove the defendant had been warned, unless the defendant pleads guilty or nolo contendere.

      The defendant would be eligible for deferred disposition.

      Court costs would be the same as what your county charges for any other non-Rules of the Road criminal offense, such as criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, or public intoxication. See the Fines, Fees, and Costs Deskbook for more information on determining court costs.

    • TJCTC has received questions about receiving citations that have not been signed by the defendant, as officers implement social distancing protocols. You can accept those citations, and they are sufficient to institute a case. However, we do not think that they would support a new criminal charge of VPTA if the person does not appear as directed. Instead, we would recommend sending a summons if they do not appear by their appearance date.

      During the pandemic emergency, the summons should direct them to appear electronically or telephonically. If they do not appear in response to the summons, the court could then utilize other tools listed in Chapter 3 of the Criminal Deskbook (with the exception of FTA or VPTA) to secure the defendant’s appearance.

    • As described in our webinar Magistration During the Pandemic, jails can be a source of intense spread of contagious disease, such as COVID-19. For this reason, many counties are suspending execution of fine-only misdemeanor warrants. Additionally, best practice would be to hold off on any capias pro fine show cause hearings, or issuance of commitment orders until the disaster order is lifted. This will help protect the health and safety of jail staff and law enforcement officers, in addition to that of defendants and other inmates.

      As always, use common sense, discretion, and an evaluation of the situation in your locality to determine how to proceed in this area.

    • Questions have come up on how to handle defendants who are unable to immediately pay fines and court costs, since community service may be difficult to perform due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

      TJCTC would certainly encourage any court to use common sense and discretion with regard to community service, such as allowing home-based projects to count as community service. Projects ordered would depend on the offense (for example on alcohol-based offenses, courts have allowed defendants to write papers describing the effects of alcohol, etc.).

       

      TJCTC also encourages courts to waive court costs rather than having defendants perform community service for them. Last session the law changed allowing, but not mandating, waiver of court costs without a finding of undue hardship for community service.

       

      The purpose of court costs is to reimburse the system, not to punish the defendant, and that purpose isn’t accomplished by performance of community service to "work off" court costs. Of course, the fine is punitive, and the court certainly may require community service to satisfy fines unless there is a showing of undue hardship for the defendant to perform community service.

       

      Also remember, the defendant should be released from Omni once they enter into a community service agreement (not once the community service is completed) and the Omni fee is either paid or waived due to indigence. See P. 87 of the Criminal Deskbook.

  • Coronavirus-Related Webinars - Updated 9/28/20

  • TJCTC Information - Updated 8/12/20

    • In these uncertain times, we know that your communities will be looking to you for leadership and strength. Remember to stay calm and vigilant.

      In the FAQ sections on this page, we have gathered information, best practices, and resources for pressing issues. Please keep checking back for more updates. TJCTC is open and in operation.

      The Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals have issued an Emergency Order which states that all courts in Texas may take certain measures in any civil or criminal case, and must do so to avoid risk to court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors, and the public.

      For more information please see the discussion above under the FAQ on Supreme Court and OCA Guidelines for Court Procedures.

      We will do everything we can to give you information so that you can safely help your community.

      Very Truly Yours,
      Thea

    • TJCTC is still open for business, working remotely! Please feel free to contact us with your education and legal questions after reviewing the information on this page. Call 512.347.9927 to speak to a staff member and press 1 to speak with an attorney. 

      You can also post on our legal board at https://www.tjctc.org/tjctc-resources/legal-question-board.html

       

  • Magistration Issues - Updated 4/15/20

    • TJCTC has created 22 bench cards designed for use as a quick and handy reference guide during the magistration process. Click here to download the bench cards!

    • On March 29, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-13 prohibiting the release of a defendant on a personal bond if the defendant is currently arrested for (with a finding of probable cause), or was previously convicted of, a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence.

      How Do I Know if The Defendant Has Prior Violence-Related Convictions?
      Convictions should be considered if they are found in criminal history records or contained in the complaint or probable cause affidavit.

      Effect of the Governor’s Order
      The Governor’s Executive Order applies to the following articles of the Code of Criminal Procedure:

      • Art. 17.03 is suspended to the extent necessary to preclude the release on personal bond of any person previously convicted of a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence, or of any person currently arrested for such a crime that is supported by probable cause.

      • Art. 17.151 is suspended to the extent necessary to prevent any person’s automatic release on personal bond because the State is not ready for trial.

      • Art. 15.21 is suspended to the extent necessary to prevent any person’s automatic release on personal bond because the jail of the county where the offense is alleged to have been committed does not take charge of the arrested person before the 11th day after the date the person is committed to the jail of the county in which the person is arrested.

      The Executive Order does not prevent the release of a defendant on a personal bond for any offense other than those involving physical violence or the threat of physical violence, or any offense specifically listed as ineligible for personal bond in Art. 17.03.

      The Order also does not prevent the release of a defendant on a bail bond (either surety or cash bond) nor does it affect the amount of bail a magistrate may set based upon the factors set forth in Art. 17.15.

      The full text of the Executive Order may be viewed here.

      For further information on the above-referenced statutes, on setting bail and bond conditions, and on the difference between a personal bond and a bail bond, please see pages 20-26 of the revised Magistration Deskbook.

      We will advise you of any further developments concerning this Executive Order.

    • Guidelines for Using a Defendant’s Current Criminal History at Magistration

      As explained in this FAQ section, on March 29, 2020, Governor Abbott issued Executive Order GA-13 prohibiting the release of a defendant on a personal bond if the defendant is currently arrested for, or was previously convicted of, a crime that involves physical violence or the threat of physical violence.

      One of the questions we posed at the time was how does a magistrate know whether or not a defendant has any such prior convictions?

      In order to assist in this determination, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has issued a Technical Assistance Memorandum requiring that any magistrate who is conducting a magistration, whether in person or by video conference, be provided a copy of the Current Criminal History (“CCH”) of the defendant.

      A copy of the Commission’s memorandum may be viewed here. All of the Technical Assistance published by TCJS may be found at https://www.tcjs.state.tx.us/technical-assistance/.

      Guidelines for Using the CCH:
      The Commission has provided the following guidelines with respect to the distribution and use of this sensitive information:

      1. The CCH may be faxed to the magistrate.
      2. The CCH may be emailed to the magistrate but only to a law enforcement or official government email account (therefore, it cannot be emailed to a gmail, yahoo or other commercial or private account).
      3. If emailed, it must be encrypted in accordance with the Criminal Justice Information System Security Policy.
      4. If the magistrate prints the CCH, it must be destroyed after use or placed in the case file.
      5. Any magistrate who uses video magistration must be given a copy of the guidelines and verify receipt and acknowledgement of these restrictions concerning CCH.

      Suggestions for Compliance:

      1. Use your county email or fax. If you are conducting video magistrations (which we strongly recommend) and do not have those capabilities at home, try to get a fax service set up at your home (your judicial technology fund should cover this) or consult with your county attorney or other county officials concerning secure email service using county email.
      2. If you do receive and print the CCH, destroy it after magistration and make a notation in the file concerning when and how it was destroyed.
      3. If you are not able to obtain the CCH by fax or secure email, then ask the jail staff if they see anything in the defendant’s record that would potentially trigger the Governor’s directive in Executive Order GA-13. If the jail staff indicate they do not see any evidence of a prior conviction of an offense involving physical violence or the threat of physical violence, note that fact in the magistration record.
      4. If you order a defendant released on a personal bond (as opposed to a bail bond), then you should order as a bond condition that the defendant report immediately to CSCD (or another county official or agency, such as the county attorney or sheriff) upon being released from custody and request that CSCD (or other county official) conduct a review of the CCH to confirm that the defendant does not have a prior conviction of an offense involving physical violence or the threat of physical violence. If CSCD (or other county official) indicates that the defendant does have a prior conviction for such an offense, then order a bond modification hearing to determine whether the defendant should be required to post a bail bond rather than a personal bond.
      5. These measures do not apply to any offense for which a defendant is not eligible for release on a personal bond under Art. 17.03.
      6. If you conduct a video magistration, verify receipt and acknowledgement of the Commission’s Guidelines.

      We will advise you of any further developments concerning the CCH Guidelines.

    • 1. Conduct magistrations by two-way video conferencing instead of in person when possible.

      One vendor who provides video magistration products is Net Protec: http://www.videomagistrate.com/.

      Here is some information that the vendor provided to us:

      • “Our service, VideoMagistrate, is a web based video conferencing solution that requires no dedicated video conference hardware while utilizing existing computer webcams and microphones, this means our service can be used anywhere you have internet access. We also take scanned versions of the county's or municipalities' forms and modify them to be used and filled in online. We also have the ability for both the Judge and the inmate to electronically sign the forms eliminating the need to fax any documents for final signature. We also record the entire video session and both the documents and videos are stored on our server for access at any future time.”
      • Here is a video about the service: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_VFklXUsmU&feature=youtu.be.
      • Here is a demo video that shows how it all actually works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLkeg-8vYVQ&feature=youtu.be.”
      • Click here to download a flyer for this program. 
      • All inquiries can be sent to sales@videomagistrate.com or you can call (800) 611-6702.

      In addition, the following judges have experience conducting video magistration and have agreed to serve as a resource for anyone who may have questions about the process:

      • Judge Rick Hill, Brazos County: (979) 255-0365
      • Judge Nicholas Chu, Travis County: Direct Office Line: (512) 854-4557 Personal Mobile: (817) 773-6905 Nicholas.Chu@traviscountytx.gov
      • Judge Bob Whitaker, Victoria County: (361) 575-0246  rwhitaker@vctx.org 
      • Judge Michael Roach (county judge, Stephens County):  mroach@stephenscountytx.govPhone: 254-559-2190
      • Judge Deidra Voigt (Gonzales County)
        ddvoigt@co.gonzales.tx.us
        Phone: 830-672-9001
      • Judge Yadi Rodriguez (Hutchinson County), 806-273-0103, Judgerodriguez@hutchinsoncnty.com

      Also see the section on this page about holding remote hearings via Zoom for tips and information.

      2. When setting bail, set personal bonds wherever possible.

      Unless a personal bond is not allowed under Art. 17.03, Code of Criminal Procedure or Gov. Abbott's Executive Order (discussed elsewhere on this page), we suggest you consider setting personal bonds instead of surety bonds. Additionally, you may impose any applicable bond conditions on defendant, which could include testing for the coronavirus and/or self-quarantine. 

      For more information on setting personal bonds and bond conditions, see p. 20 – 26 of our revised Magistration Deskbook, which can be found here: https://www.tjctc.org/tjctc-resources/Deskbooks.html

      Also note that the Texas Commission on Jail Standards has sent Technical Assistance Memoranda to all sheriffs and jail administrators. Those memos can be found here and here.

  • Inquest Issues - Updated 8/12/20

    • When out on death calls, the judge should always be protecting themselves from the potential spread of COVID-19. One of the ways that they can do that is by wearing appropriate PPE.

      Guidelines That May be Helpful:

      From the CDC: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/respirator-use-faq.html

      From the National Funeral Directors Association: www.nfda.org/covid-19/technical-information

      Medical examiners have suggested JPs should contact their county emergency operating center or emergency coordinator (in many places this is the county judge). The JP may be able to order PPE through them.

      One medical examiner also said that she knows that Amazon and other retailers are stocking masks and disinfectant that they are only selling to medical and governmental entities. The judge can coordinate purchases like this through their county purchasing department, treasurer, or auditor.

      Other potential resources are local law enforcement or emergency medical services. They may be willing to share any extra PPE that they have or let a JP’s office add on to an upcoming bulk order. Many law enforcement suppliers stock PPE that is recommended and may have still have some available.

      It is important to note that PPE is scarce for everyone right now, so be patient, use the resources that you have, and try to work with your county partners to make sure everyone is operating safely.

      Protect yourself with whatever resources you have available. We recognize there is a shortage of masks, gloves, and sanitizers. It’s a good idea to change clothes and wash them after and use Lysol spray or wipes – if available – on surfaces that may have come in contact with suspected contaminated areas.

      Have a plan with first responders so not as many people are entering homes where no foul play is suspected. This may mean that you do not see the body in its final position and are giving permission to move bodies before you get to a scene.

      This is a time when ‘reasonable location’ may mean performing inquests over the phone. The less spread of germs, the better. Use your best judgment and common sense.

      Click here for April 2020 guidance from the CDC on COVID-19 Deaths.

      Click here to download the Mass Casualty Incidents information from UH Law & Policy Institute

      Watch a video from a Texas mortuary professional with tips on conducting an inquest during the pandemic. 

      Please see the Autopsies and Testing section under this tab for details from the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office on handling bodies.

    • An autopsy may not be ordered to be performed on a COVID-19 death. Code of Criminal Procedure 49.10 (d) … "A justice of the peace may not order a person to perform an autopsy on the body of a deceased person whose death was caused by a communicable disease during a public health disaster."

      However, many labs will perform autopsies in certain situations. Check with the entity that your county contracts with for autopsies to see what their policy is. For example, Travis County ME will accept suspected COVID-19 deaths, and will send a sample for testing. If the sample comes back negative, they will perform the autopsy. If it comes back positive, they will not perform the autopsy, as provided by Art. 49.10(d). See the Guidance Regarding Sending Bodies for Autopsy section for more information.

      A note from Travis County ME about processing bodies in this pandemic:  

      A very important issue has arisen regarding potential COVID-19 related deaths and transport of bodies to TCME by funeral homes. It has come to our attention that instructional material has been disseminated to funeral homes related to procedures to decontaminate bodies that involve applying disinfecting agent(s) on and/or within the nose and mouth in an attempt to reduce potential risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus. 

      While we have no particular stance on this practice once the body has been examined and prior to embalming and/or viewing at the funeral home, the practice of applying a disinfecting agent in or around the nose or mouth could have detrimental effects on the ability of the laboratory test to identify the COVID-19 virus in samples we collect from those areas, and would invalidate the legitimacy of a negative test. Spraying the exterior surface of the body bag with a disinfectant after it has been sealed is acceptable as long as efforts are made to prevent the disinfectant from leaking through the zipper onto the face. 

      When arranging for transport of a decedent to TCME, please inform the funeral home you are engaging for transport that they are not to put any type of chemical/disinfecting agent in, on, or around the body.  If such agents are applied to a body, we will be unable to accept the case for examination. Thank you for assisting us in our attempts to actively halt this practice that would undermine our shared interest in our ability to accurately diagnose cases of COVID-19.

      Individual Lab Policies:

      Some labs in Texas are testing samples for Medical Examiners and Justices of the Peace. Two of those are listed directly below, click the lab name for a link to COVID-19 information on their websites. Also, many lab and ME policies and procedures are listed below those two links. Please scroll down to find your lab or ME's office, as applicable.

      LabCorp
      Quest Diagnostics

      Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office – Austin, Texas
      Travis County ME’s office is testing for COVID-19.

      The following is Travis County ME’s updated information for JPs:

      For natural deaths occurring in patients who have been diagnosed prior to death with COVID-19, those decedents do not require an autopsy and we do not expect that those cases will be referred to our office unless an autopsy would have already been required for a reason other than potential COVID-19 infection (for example, a suspected homicide or suicide case).

      If you are investigating a potential COVID-19 related death and the hospital or physician ordered COVID-19 testing before the patient died, it will be important to wait until the results of that test come back prior to referring the case to TCME for autopsy. This is because if the result comes back positive, an autopsy is not necessary and the treating physicians should sign the death certificate (again, unless an autopsy would already be required for another reason other than COVID-19). If the result comes back negative and you still desire an autopsy, the case can then be referred to our office at that time.

      For deaths that have a compelling history that suggests a reasonable probability of infection (and death due to that infection), we are collecting the appropriate samples and sending them to an outside laboratory for testing. While we are waiting for test results, the body will be stored at TCME pending the receipt of results. If the test is positive for COVID-19, an autopsy will not be performed. An external examination with computed tomography scan will be performed, and the death will be attributed to the infection.

      If an autopsy is required on a COVID-positive decedent for a forensic reason other than potential death due to the infection (for example, a suspected homicide or suicide case), we have a specialized protocol for performing autopsies in those situations in order to lessen the potential risk to our staff. Each case will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine the course that is taken.

      It will be very important to obtain detailed histories regarding decedents to determine whether testing is warranted. Important pieces of information to obtain include detailed descriptions of symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath, and whether the decedent appeared to be suffering from a respiratory disease), potential exposure to other individuals who are or may be sick, and any travel history (with details about when and where the travel was).

      These protocols may be modified as we gain more experience in dealing with these cases. Thank you for your understanding during this difficult and challenging situation. We value our relationships with our partners and want to ensure that we continue to provide you with the best possible service during this pandemic.

      Central Texas Autopsy – Lockhart
      Central Texas Autopsy does not have test kits for COVID-19. Case information must be called in prior to sending a body, so that the office can evaluate whether or not they will accept the body for an autopsy.

      Full text of current procedures can be found here.

      Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office – Dallas
      Dallas County ME’s office is not accepting bodies that have tested positive for COVID-19. Testing is conducted through Dallas County Health and Human Services. Instructions for submissions and request forms can be found at their website: https://www.dallascounty.org/departments/dchhs/2019-novel-coronavirus.php

      Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office – Fort Worth [also Lubbock, Ector, Denton Counties]
      Tarrant County ME’s office is testing for COVID-19. Guidelines and other information related to COVID-19 can be found here.

      Checklist of screening questions for COVID-19 can be found here.

      Ector, Denton, and Lubbock County Medical Examiner’s Offices work with Tarrant County Medical Examiner, so the above guidelines apply to them as well.

      Bexar County Medical Examiner’s Office - San Antonio
      Bexar County is not testing for COVID-19. If a COVID-19 is suspected, the judge must contact the local Health Department to conduct the test for COVID-19. A judge must contact the office prior to sending a body. It will be very important to have information regarding the deceased’s travel history, symptoms, and contacts with anyone suspected of having COVID-19.

      Webb County Medical Examiner's Office - Laredo
      Webb County ME is still accepting all cases, even those suspected to have COVID-19. The current turn-around time for COVID-19 testing through the lab that they are using, Quest, is approximately 4-5 days.

      They are asking JPs to contact the ME’s office prior to transport, as they have seen some funeral homes that are putting disinfectant into the decedents’ airways, rendering any testing for COVID-19 non-viable. They also want to provide the JP with other precautions to take when handling the body to keep everyone safe.

      Like other offices, they are requesting the JP to collect information about travel, exposure, and symptoms in the last 14 days and forward that information to the ME’s office.

      Fort Bend County Medical Examiner’s Office – Rosenberg
      In light of COVID-19 in our region, these are additional investigative questions and information that should help identify decedents at low or high risk for exposure to or infection by COVID-19. The ME Investigators will also be gathering this information when we are contacted by law enforcement.

      Please have all officers/investigators get this information on all decedents they investigate or respond:
      1. Recent travel? Where? What dates or when did they return?
      2. Any respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough (dry or wet), chills, sweats, muscle aches, shortness of breath in the last 2 weeks?
      3. Exposure to anyone who has these symptoms?
      4. Are they in a facility (nursing home, inpatient facility, group home, etc.) with other employees or patients with these symptoms or has tested positive for COVID-19?
      5. Exposure to anyone who has recently traveled? Who are they? Where did they go? Do they have any symptoms?
      6. Are they being treated for any respiratory symptoms? Who is their physician?
      7. Have they been tested for COVID19? Are they positive or negative?

      These questions need to be answered. Talking to the family on the scene or nurse/physician in the emergency room and getting responses such as “I don’t know” or “I don’t have that information” or “I didn’t ask” is insufficient. It is also important to get contact information for any close relatives or people who might have more information related to these questions.

      CDC Guidance:

      Click here to download the April 2020 guidance on Certifying COVID-19 Deaths.

      Interim Guidance for Collection and Submission of Postmortem Specimens from Deceased Persons Under Investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, February 2020: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-postmortem-specimens.html

      Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens from Persons for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/lab/guidelines-clinical-specimens.html

      American Forensics Labs
      Our policies are based on the guidelines from the CDC and OSHA for documentation of the disease as well as maintaining the health and safety of our staff.

      https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html

      - We are performing autopsies as usual for decedents who are NOT suspected of having COVID19. Our investigators will investigate each case and screen additionally for COVID19 exposure.

      - If a patient has confirmed COVID19 positive, no autopsy is required. If you need assistance with death certificate wording, please feel free to contact me for guidance. If the patient's death was COVID19 positive and the manner of death is a homicide or some suicides, then an autopsy may be required to document the findings for eventual legal proceedings. These will be assessed on a case by case basis. Despite being in the midst of a pandemic, our policies and procedures for investigating cases will be followed. The evidence and data collected is as important as it ever was.

      - If a patient has died and is suspected to have COVID19, then testing will be done for COVID19 before an autopsy will be performed.

      - If the patient died in the ER please ask the ER to send for the COVID19 testing. This will decrease the turnaround time for the test. You may then have the decedent transported to us. We will follow up on the testing prior to autopsy.

      - If the deceased dies somewhere other than a hospital and is suspected of having COVID19, then we can conduct the COVID19 testing here prior to the autopsy.

      Again - to reiterate, autopsies will be postponed until testing is confirmed negative. On the patients we have seen so far, the testing takes anywhere from 3-5 days for results.

      I understand and acknowledge that these are frightening times, but it is as important as ever to not take shortcuts in death investigation which may have dire consequences later down the road. It is important to take COVID19 exposure seriously. Washing hands and proper use of personal protection equipment (PPE) are important safeguards for our staff and for you at the scene.

      Our American Forensics Death Investigators, Nicole and Ashley, will continue to investigate cases that are sent to us. If you would like a copy of the report that they generate, please let us know we are happy to provide that to you to aid with your investigation and record keeping.

      The health and safety of you, our staff and the patient's family is our priority. Please be safe and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

      Dr. G Amy C. Gruszecki, MSFS, DO
      Forensic Pathologist
      American Forensics

      www.americanforensics.com

       

    • Transporting the body

      • If there are issues with body transportation – an overwhelmed system or funeral home personnel getting sick – please do not attempt to move the body yourself.

      Cremation

      • From the UH Health & Law Policy institute linked below: “A body or a body part that is subject to an inquest must be disposed according to the directions of the medico-legal authority. The medico-legal authority, for example, may order a disinterment if a body or body part subject to an inquest was buried prior to an investigation. Similarly, a body subject to an inquest may not be cremated unless the body is identified, and the medico-legal authority has issued a signed certificate stating that an autopsy was performed on the body or that an autopsy was unnecessary. A body generally cannot be cremated within 48 hours after the time of death as indicated on the death certificate but may proceed if the death certificate indicates that death was caused by Asiatic cholera, bubonic plague, typhus fever, smallpox, or if the medico-legal authority waives the requirement in writing. During a Public Health Disaster, the DSHS Commissioner may designate other communicable diseases for which cremation within 48 hours of the time of death is authorized.”
    • You may be able to gather information from witnesses that lead you to believe the person died from COVID-19. This may be from family members or there may be a doctor who says they believe that is the cause of death but were unable to test. The symptoms include a spiked fever, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

      If you believe that the death was likely or suspected COVID-19, you should state that in the death certificate: “suspected coronavirus disease” or “suspected COVID-19.” This is important data you are creating that will help with planning for future public health disasters. 

      For deaths due to COVID-19, report COVID-19 in Cause of Death – Part I on the Medical 2 tab. Report other chronic conditions that may have contributed (e.g. COPD, asthma) in Cause of Death – Part II on the Medical 2 tab. See our autopsy section regarding sending suspected or confirmed COVID-19 deaths for autopsy in light of Art. 49.10(d) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

  • Constable Resources - Updated 9/3/20

    • Effective September 4, the CDC has imposed a moratorium on residential evictions for “covered persons” who provide a sworn Declaration to their landlord that they meet the qualifications for the moratorium. If a constable executing a writ of possession discovers that a tenant claims to have delivered a Declaration to the landlord, the constable should immediately notify the court of the Declaration and wait for an order from the court to resume execution of the writ.

      For full details of this order and its impact on eviction cases, please see the Eviction Cases and CDC moratorium sections at the top of this page.

    • For free information and resources for law enforcement officers struggling with these issues, please visit:
      https://www.sunshinebehavioralhealth.com/resources/police-and-mental-health/.

    • Issuance of Civil Process
      Where necessary to protect the safety of the public, court staff, constables, and constable office staff, courts must hold cases in a manner that protects public health and safety. This means that best practice would be for courts to proceed in a way that ensures constable resources and local conditions permit moving forward with service. Note that all cases must be held in compliance with OCA guidance, as described elsewhere on this page.

      For an example of a court order related to constable duties, see Tarrant County’s order here.

      Service of Civil Process
      If you have process to serve, we recommend that you take all precautions possible, including protective equipment, maintaining safe distancing, and frequent and thorough hand washing. Seek alternative or mail service wherever possible and allowable. Additionally, seek delays in serving or executing the process if it will allow you to do so safely. Many tasks, such as service of citations, do not have specific guidelines on timeframes that you must follow. Additionally, courts are permitted to extend timeframes and deadlines if necessary for health and safety through September 30.

      Orders of Sale
      If your office has a pending order of sale, public auction won't be able to be reasonably performed until some of the restrictions are lifted. We would recommend contacting the court to either extend the deadlines of the writ of execution if it is still alive under their authority under the Emergency Order, which allows postponement for a period no later than September 30, or to issue a venditioni exponas to allow you to perform the sale outside of the writ's timeframes.

    • Travis County has shared their response plan and strategies, which other offices may choose to implement. 

      Click here for a SOP issued by the Travis County Sheriff's Office.

      Click here for a SOP issued by Travis County Constable Precinct 5.

      The CDC has rated the immediate health risk to law enforcement personnel performing daily routine activities to be low and recommended that they follow the CDC’s Interim General Business Guidance (linked below).

      The reality is that law enforcement officers, like all first responders, hospital workers, and public service providers, can potentially be exposed to infectious diseases at any time during their daily shifts. It is important to remain calm, recall training, and work with other government and health officials to ensure that emergency planning is put into action to protect everyone from unnecessary exposure.

      Protect yourself from exposure

      • If possible, maintain a distance of 6 feet from other people
      • Practice proper hand hygiene
        • Soap and water are preferable, but if they are not readily available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
        • Wear disposable gloves
      • Do not touch your face with unwashed hands
      • Wear wraparound sunglasses during the day and clear protective eyewear at night
      • Have EMS/EMT assess and transport anyone that you suspect might have COVID-19.
      • Ensure that only trained personnel with appropriate equipment have contact with anyone who has or may have COVID-19
      • Learn your agency’s plan for exposure control and participate in any available training
      • Post information about COVID-19 in your office to inform other officers and the public

      Keep in contact with your courts and other county officials

      • Many courts are requiring that the service of some civil process be stopped for a set amount of time to limit officer’s exposure to COVID-19
      • Jail and arrest policies may be temporarily changed
      • There may be additional county emergency policies and safety plans that constable’s offices must comply with

      If you suspect you came in contact with COVID-19

      • Wash your hands thoroughly
      • Clean and infect your duty belt and other gear prior to reuse
      • Change your clothes if possible and follow standard operating procedures to contain and dispose any disposable PPE
      • Wash clothing in hot water with detergent
      • Consider self-quarantine and communicate related to the exposure with your employer (agency, department, or county officials)

      If you must make contact with individuals confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19

      • Follow CDC’s guidance for Emergency Medical Professionals (link below)
      • If you are in close contact with suspected COVID-19, N95 Respirators or respirators that offer a higher level of protection should be used if possible, if not, N95 or higher-level facemasks
      • Eye protection (goggles or disposable face shield rather than just personal eyeglasses)
      • Disposable gloves and an isolation gown
      • This PPE should be prioritized for persons in high contact, healthcare and first responders to health emergencies, if it is in short supply
    • Lexipol has opened up access to their resources for all law enforcement, not just agencies who pay for their services. Now might be a good time for constable offices to take advantage of these policy and education resources. Their website is https://coronavirus.lexipol.com/.  For information on securing grants to respond to COVID-19, go to https://www.lexipol.com/coronavirus/grant-funding/. Additionally, they have a webinar featuring an expert panel discussing coronavirus issues for law enforcement, which you can view here.

      Click here for the International Law Enforcement Trainers' Association (ILEETA) COVID-19 trainer resource page, with lots of links, videos, and more.

      Click here for a PoliceOne article about COVID-19 procedures.

      Click here for a fact sheet from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

      Click here to watch the video "Coronavirus: What Police Officers Need to Know"

      Click here to watch the video "Is Your Agency Ready for a Pandemic" by risk management expert and Lexipol co-founder Gordon Graham

      Click here to access the Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers from the CDC. 

      Click here to access the CDC document entitled: What Law Enforcement Personnel Need to Know about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) 

      Click here to access the CDC document entitled Interim Guidance for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Systems and 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) for COVID-19 in the United States

      Click here to access OSHA/HHS's Guidance on Workplaces for COVID-19

      PoliceOne website has tips for practice social distancing as a citizen and also special tips for law enforcement agencies. Click here to read the specific tips. 

      Check out this link to read tips for preventing staff from exposure. 

      Click here to read a link about what to do if a staff member has become infected. Quick exposure control can protect the rest of your office and the public. 

  • Court Administration During the COVID-19 Pandemic - Updated 4/3/20

    • See the OCA guidance linked on this page for full information. The FFCRA is a law passed aimed at protecting employees and employers during the pandemic. 

      The law requires you to post this poster in a prominent place. Sending it by email or regular mail to all of your employees will satisfy the posting requirement. The Department of Labor has many resources (click here) that explain the new law and temporary rule. A recorded webinar discussing the new law/rule was posted to the site on April 3rd.

  • Your community looks to the courts and to law enforcement for leadership in times of emergency. We know how seriously you all take your jobs and we want to remind you that self-care and handling stress will be very important for you and your staff in the next few weeks.

    Webinar Opportunity
    Many of you are on the front lines dealing with this crisis. Go to https://info.lexipol.com/webinar-coronavirus-stress-management to view a webinar on managing your stress so that you can continue to effectively serve your community.

    From the Texas State Bar - We are facing a time of uncertainty and, increasingly, isolation. Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP) has collected valuable online support options for anyone feeling isolated and struggling with a mental health issue or needing recovery support. You can view those resources at texasbar.com/remote-well-being.

    TLAP confidentially helps lawyers, judges (including non-lawyer judges), and law students who are concerned for themselves or a colleague with regard to general well-being, mental health, or substance use issues. TLAP can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 800-343-TLAP (8527) or texting TLAP to 555888. Additional resources are available at tlaphelps.org.

    From the CDC - Things you can do to support yourself:

    • Avoid excessive exposure to media coverage of COVID-19.

    • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and avoid alcohol and drugs.

    • Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do some other activities you enjoy to return to your normal life.

    • Connect with others. Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships.

    • Maintain a sense of hope and positive thinking.

    • For more tips, see the CDC’s “Coping During Covid-19” page at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/coping.html.

    Mental Health Resource for Law Enforcement - https://www.sunshinebehavioralhealth.com/resources/police-and-mental-health/.

    Need to just vent or to be heard? Contact us. (jessforeman@txstate.edu) We are here for you. ❤ TJCTC

  • CDC Coronavirus Statistics Page 

    Click here for a site with live worldwide updated statistics, including filterable graphs.

    Click here for the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus site and map.

    Click here for DSHS information on COVID-19 in Texas, including county-by-county

    Gov. Abbott and Matthew McConaughey PSA video