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Felony Criminal Court Interim procedures / Bell County

03/18/2020 8:33 AM | Cynthia Helmandollar (Administrator)

To:        Attorneys representing defendants in felony courts
From:   J Gauntt, J LePak, and J Jezek
Re:       Interim Procedures in Felony Criminal Courts
Date:    March 17, 2020

We are instituting the following interim procedures immediately:
1.    Please instruct your client, witnesses, etc to remain in the hallways until their case is heard.  We are under directives to maintain social distancing.  You should maintain a minimum distance of 3’ to 6’ between yourself and all other persons.

2.    Cases (pleas and uncontested sentencings) will be scheduled at 15-minute intervals.  We will try to accommodate your schedules as much as possible.  If you will contact the court coordinator no later than noon on the day before the setting, the coordinator can set your cases for specific
times during that day.  It is absolutely essential that you appear at the time of your specific setting.  The number of inmates in holding tanks is further limited by new requirements and your inmate will not be available for long period of time.  If your client is on bond, it will be your responsibility to notify them of the specific time of their setting.

3.    Non-jury trials, contested sentencing hearing, and contested revocation hearing, pre-trial motions, etc. will be specially set as time permits.  Please advise the court or the coordinator of the estimated length of the hearing at the time the case is set.  If witnesses and spectators at a hearing exceed 12 people, please talk with the court regarding scheduling.  You can expect a  delay in hearings where 12 or more people are expected to appear.

4.    Do not appear at Thursday or Friday docket calls (pre-trial, revocation announcements, arraignment, jury docket calls).  Advise your client not to appear for routine Thursday or Friday docket calls.  You should send an email to the coordinator  with a copy to the State’s attorney, by
noon on the day before docket call.  In that email you should make your announcement to the court and advise a proposed date for the next setting.  Also, if you are setting a plea or uncontested sentencing, please suggest a proposed time for the setting.  If an email is submitted to a
coordinator that does not include notice to the State’s attorney, that email will be returned to you without action.  Cases requiring a record will still require the presence of you and your client.

5.    So long as no jury panels are available, all jury trials will be reset 90 days.  If the new date is not convenient for you or the State, please contact the coordinator or court for an agreed reset date.

We are hopeful that these new procedures will reduce the number of persons in the courthouse and in our courtrooms at any particular time.  We want to continue to hear criminal matters without creating unnecessary backlogs.  However, if you or your client are ill or not feeling well, please
advise the court prior to your setting.  We do not want to risk anyone’s health.  Cases can be reset.

Thank you for your cooperation and your patience.

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The Bell County Bar Association is a non-profit organization. Post Office Box 282, Belton, Texas 76513