By Nancy L. Rommelmann PLLC | Family Law Attorney –
Backlogs in Texas District Courts exist due in part to over a 10% increase in civil case filings annually in recent years. Trial judges have worked hard to address the backlog; however, their caseloads remain substantial and are exacerbated by the suspension of jury trials due to Texas Supreme Court COVID-19 mandates.
If you want to expedite your lawsuit proceedings, a “Special Judge” (Section 151 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code) can be your solution. There are specific qualifications of a Special Judge.
A snapshot of what this looks like: Attorneys, on opposing sides of a case, can agree to use a Special Judge they have selected who has special expertise in the area of law of the case being litigated. The attorneys submit a request/motion to the Judge in whose court a case is pending who may – not must, refer any/all of the issues in the lawsuit to the Special Judge, including final judgment. This allows for expedited hearings, trial schedules and for parties to have control of timing and location of the proceedings. Some Special Judges will work outside of a 9 am – 5 pm schedule and weekends. While you pay the Special Judge their fee, the attorneys’ time is used more efficiently.
Family Law and COVID-19 Update
The Supreme Court of Texas issued the 33rd Emergency Order on January 14, 2021, regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster, and subject to constitutional limitations, “requires courts to continue to use all reasonable efforts to hold proceedings remotely and to follow OCA’s Guidance for All Court Proceedings; prohibits Justice and Municipal Courts from holding an in-person jury proceeding prior to 4/1; permits district, county, and probate courts to hold in-person jury trials after certain actions; permits courts to hold virtual jury proceedings in certain cases with certain technology provided to prospective jurors; extends the possession and access to a child provisions from previous orders.” Hearings are set using “Zoom.”
“A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca