COVID-19 creates delays in East Texas courts

Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 12, 2021 at 8:23 PM CDT
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ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - The courts are trying to operate as best they can during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Angelina County, they’re utilizing zoom and rescheduling dates to accommodate plans as efficiently as possible. Even so, court proceedings are more time consuming, leading to more delays.

“There’s definitely been impacts and a slowdown ever since COVID-19 initially hit,” said Janet Cassels, Angelina County District Attorney. “The courts in our state work under the auspices of the office of the court administration, and so there have been guidelines and orders that the courts have had to operate under.”

Cassels says the court system is not designed to have a contingency plan to deal with a situation like this, even now over a year into the pandemic. There are still official regulations that the court itself must continue to abide by under law.

“It’s also a big impasse to try to get certain kinds of proceedings like jury trials done, because they require a lot of the public to show up to participate in the jury selection process.”

There have been no jury trials in Judge Joe Lee Register’s courtroom since even before the rise of the delta variant. For bench trials and hearings, he limits attendance and rotates per hour. While the guidelines are frustrating, the judge and his staff are still abiding by all appropriate measures.

“I am now proceeding in somewhat of a protected mode. By that I still maintain separation in my courtroom. I encourage people to wear a mask, but I’m not requiring that they wear a mask when they come in the courtroom.”

Cassels also noted problems have been raised statewide in regards to ensuring a fair trial process with COVID regulations in place.

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