WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Wichita County courtrooms are preparing for Monday, the day nonessential hearings can resume.
For about two months, judges have only been able to hold essential hearings like some pleas, bond reductions, protective orders and emergency family law hearings.
Under the direction of the Texas Supreme Court, jury trials willl have to hold off until August 1.
The 30th and 78th district judges said as hearings ramp up, health safety remains priority.
“There is a lot of things to juggle while trying to have some semblance of activity,” 30th District Judge Jeff McKnight said.
“We’ve been trying to get as much work done as possible through remote hearings, but it’s been an adjustment, sort of rules come out every few weeks and we have to figure out how to adjust to them,” 78th District Judge Meredith Kennedy said.
McKnight said a plan is now on paper.
With tape on the benches, his courtroom will only hold 35 people in the gallery.
“We kind of pay attention to who is sitting where,” McKnight said. “I’ve changed the configuration of the courtroom to allow 6 feet from almost any given point to the next given point.”
Just 10 people can be in the 89th and 78th District courtroom galleries.
“We may be able to hold 17 or so pleas as of June 1, I can’t put 17 defendants in this courtroom, plus their attorneys so it is going to be a challenge,” Kennedy said.
For the time being, residents don’t have to worry about getting jury duty as trial by jury doesn’t resume in Wichita County for two months.
“The problem we ran into is just the ability to call people in for a jury, so this room is the biggest courtroom in the courthouse and Monday mornings when the jury is called in, they all assemble here, 150, 180 or so,” McKnight said.
“For us, it’s more of our dockets and trying to make sure that we’re moving cases and trying the criminal cases that need to be tried, but we’re in the same position that everybody else in the state is in,” Kennedy said.
Hearings are set to resume, but the jury is still out on how exactly it will go.
Courts have been able to do some hearings via Zoom.
Zoom is the only virtual platform McKnight said the supreme court allows, but he said that’s not always possible and there are some problems with technology.