By Brad Sklencar, Committee Chair
For those of us who also practice in other counties, we know that Bexar County Judges are the gold standard of COVID 19 court response, embracing innovative solutions to keep the dockets moving. The SABA Civil District Courts Committee gives a hearty thank you to our Administrative Judge Ron Rangel, the Civil District Court Judges, staff attorneys and clerks for their herculean efforts to create and build a responsive Covid-19 plan to keep cases moving along.
Civil Court Survey results
June 11-16, SABA ran a short survey to civil district court practitioners requesting feedback regarding the first 60 days of the Bexar County Civil District Courts COVID-19 Court Operations Plan. Not surprisingly, we all soon discovered, as shared by many survey respondents, that many of the old Bexar County systems were difficult to optimize for the current remote work environment. CLICK HERE to read the SA Business Journal article (note you must be a SA Business Journal subscriber to read).
Civil District Court Updates & Tips
On June 26, SABA and the District Courts hosted a webinar to update attorneys about the state of the District Courts and what they could expect in the near future. Please note the following changes to staffing:
- District Clerk reduced staff beginning June 29. In response to recent COVID-19 related incidents at the courthouse, the District Clerk’s office is returning to reduced staff at the courthouse.
- District Clerk is developing a remote work environment so key staff can contribute away from the courthouse. The District Clerk staff has secured 25 laptop computers that will allow key senior clerks to work remotely. This will take some time to set up secure work environments, but Bexar IT is working diligently to deliver.
- Click HERE for link to recorded June 26 Webinar
- Click HERE for District Clerk June 26 power point slides.
Some suggested tips and habits:
- Include Contact Information – when systems go down, the courts may need to notify you about delays. Please include your email and phone numbers on your documents in an easy to find spot to make it easy for the courts to contact you, if needed.
- Please use the CALL IN NUMBER for audio – This is especially important when creating a record, the call-in phone number has consistent and superior sound quality compared to zoom audio. If the video has interference, the audio remains stable. The audio telephone line for all courts is 346-248-7799.
- Audio awareness– please do not play music or background noise, even when waiting to enter a meeting. Our zoom court proceedings are livestreamed on youtube. Youtube sometimes will pick up the audio as a copyright violation and will close the session. Please use the mute button until you are ready to enter the proceeding.
- When systems are working smoothly, case are being assigned quickly. Be prepared to receive notes and instructions from your judge the night prior.
- Refer to Bexar Civil Court Calendar to schedule- https://www.bexar.org/2995/Civil-Court-Schedule. The different dockets are listed on the calendar. Presiding Docket is marked in a red font when that day’s docket is full. As of this writing, the docket is full through mid-July. To accommodate expected delays and filling up on the dates, set your hearings a few more days further out.
- Proposed Orders The 1:30 Uncontested Docket requires the e-filing of Proposed Orders. For all other matters where you are wanting to file a Proposed Order (which may or may not get signed), e-file attach the Proposed Order to your Motion as an exhibit. This will save time in the District Clerk’s office, and help them handle the filings more expeditiously.
Coming Soon – Civil Court Operation Plan 3, Odyssey Software in 2021
Judge Angélica Jiménez shared that a version 3 Court Operations Plan will be released in the next few weeks and will include several more interactive docket features, including a procedure for attorneys to approach (using zoom) during Presiding Court.
The District Clerk’s office shared that Bexar County is moving to the Odyssey® software platform and it will be integrated county-wide. This is the same software platform that Travis County currently uses. Odyssey® provides many more modern and self-serve functions.
Onboarding a new system (eg data import, testing, training, etc) generally takes a full year. The original Odyssey® launch date, pre-Covid-19, was February 2021, and the County is still hopeful that date will continue to remain the launch date.
Every August, The Civil District Court Committee welcomes new Committee member volunteers who want to work on civil district court projects. Sign up during membership renewal or email AshleyB@sabar.org