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Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic, Federal Jury Trials in McAllen Get Suspended

The disruption of life in Texas due to the COVID-19 coronavirus now includes the suspension of jury trials in federal court in McAllen, TX, until July 6 at the earliest. Given the pandemic, the court said delaying scheduled civil and criminal trials is in the best interests of the public.

The June 1 special order from the McAllen Division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas delays all civil and criminal jury trials that were scheduled to start through July 3. Judges may reschedule trials at their discretion afterward.

The three federal judges signing the order cite the court’s reduced ability to obtain an adequate spectrum of jurors and the reduced availability of attorneys and court staff to be present in courtrooms due to public health risks.

The delays will not be counted toward a violation of defendants’ Constitutional right to a speedy trial. “The court finds that the ends of justice served by ordering these continuances outweigh the interest of the public and of each defendant in a speedy trial,” the order says. “Indeed, the best interests of the public are served by these continuances.”

Normally, the Speedy Trial Act of 1974 ensures defendants can have their cases brought before a jury within 70 days of an indictment being filed against them, barring certain exceptions that allow for the speedy trial clock to be paused.

The Federal Court’s order also gives judges discretion to postpone bench trials, in-person hearings, sentencing proceedings, scheduling conferences and other court proceedings.

The order does not affect other deadlines. Attorneys are to contact the relevant judge to discuss potential changes and are to file appropriate motions with the court.

Magistrate judges will continue to conduct initial appearances, arraignments, detention hearings, the issuance of warrants and referred civil matters. The order does not apply to Bankruptcy Court proceedings.

Court Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

In its coverage of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting America’s political and civic life, Ballotpedia says, as of June 8, 34 states have suspended in-person proceedings statewide, and 16 states (including Texas) have suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.

The Texas Supreme Court issued an order April 27 allowing local courts to take steps to limit the spread of coronavirus through June 1. “Courts must not conduct in-person proceedings contrary to guidance issued by the Office of Court Administration regarding social distancing, maximum group size, and other restrictions and precautions,” the order says. “Courts should use all reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely.”

Hidalgo County District Court in McAllen delayed all jury trials until further notice in an order filed March 24.

McAllen Municipal Court encourages anyone who has received a ticket to stay home and contact the court by email at mcallenmunicipalcourt@mcallen.net or by phone at (956) 681-2900 for payment instructions.

Court orders and updates pertaining to COVID-19 from the U.S. District Courts for the Texas Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western districts, as well as federal courts in other states and in Washington, D.C., are updated daily and can be found at this U.S. Courts directory of pandemic responses.

Will COVID-19 Affect My Personal Injury Claim?

If your personal injury claim was set to go to trial this spring, it has been indefinitely delayed. If it had yet to be scheduled for trial, there has been no further scheduling of trials since delays were issued in Texas earlier this year.

However, this does not mean work on your case is not progressing. If you have a case pending and are represented by Herrman & Herrman, do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions. Our law office began to observe Texas’ closure orders in mid-March but our attorneys have continued to work remotely on cases. Our attorneys are available to talk about your legal issues over the phone or via free video conferencing services, such as:

  • GoToMeeting
  • Facetime
  • Skype
  • Zoom.

Our staff and attorneys continue to monitor claim deadlines, negotiate with insurance companies and prepare lawsuits as necessary. An order issued by the Supreme Court allows all courts in Texas to extend the statute of limitations in any case for a stated period ending 30 days after the state of disaster declaration has been lifted. This means the statute of limitations should not be an issue on any lawsuits filed during or immediately after pandemic-related closures.

We have been able to contact most insurance companies by phone to review evidence and press for settlements of personal injury claims. As always, if we receive a settlement offer on your case, you will hear from your Herrman & Herrman attorney promptly to discuss it.

In the meantime, you should continue to obtain medical care as directed by your doctor. Failing to do so could allow the opposition in your case to argue that you are not as severely injured as you claim to be.

Most doctors in Texas are using video-conferencing technology, particularly for medical evaluations. Some medical practices continue to have patients come to their offices for hands-on treatment. They may require a face mask or give you one, and have you phone them from their parking lot to check in and then wait to be called in to the building.

A physical therapist who is not meeting with patients should be able to give you exercises to do at home to keep your recovery moving forward.

Please contact your doctor’s office for instructions if you have an appointment for scheduled care or treatment and do not already know their safety protocols.

Contact Our McAllen, TX, Personal Injury Lawyers

The COVID-19 coronavirus has not stopped Texans from living their lives, and Texas is starting to “re-open” as we head into summer.

The experienced McAllen personal injury attorneys of Herman & Herrman are here to assist new and existing clients. We care deeply about people in McAllen from all walks of life and work aggressively to obtain full compensation for those who have been injured through the fault of others. Contact us at (361) 882-4357 or online for legal assistance today.