By: Mark Diaz
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Galveston Criminal Attorney Gives Updates on Galveston County Courts
Galveston County Court Updates As Of Thanksgiving
Where we are now, is that all the repairs have been completed, and all but one court are fully open once again. All defendants are required to appear. There are some courts where we can make other arrangements, but for the most part, the courthouse is wide open again. We’re able to go in as normal. Jury trials are still sort of delayed, the frequency has been cut down.
However, we’re still today doing jury selection in the big assembly room, which is a difficult situation, because we’re so far apart from all the potential jurors. That makes it hard to interact with people and see their facial expressions, demeanor, that kind of thing. But it is back in operation.
Getting Back To Normal
Now, the current plan, I believe, is to go back to fully normal starting in January. Meaning we’ll be doing jury selection back inside the courtroom, which is much better for us, and for everyone involved really. It’s much better when you can see people’s facial expressions and just generally read people’s body language.
I think both sides appreciate that, not just the defense. So, the current plan, as I said, is to go back to that in January. Of course, that could get shut down if there was another COVID spike or some other situation that we can’t foresee. But that’s the current plan and I think a lot of us are looking forward to that.
Updates On Your Case
Now, another update concerning that is, a lot of you call and want an update on your case. Sometimes we just don’t have anything new to tell you. So, allow me to give you some insight as to why that’s happening. They are short-staffed at the DA’s office right now. When I say short-staffed, I mean attorneys short-staffed, they have a lot of vacant positions, which has made it so that in some cases one person is responsible for the entire docket, which is a lot to handle for one person.
A felony chief recently left the office and they have not yet hired or promoted anyone in that court to Chief. We have at least one court with no chief prosecutor. We have another court where the chief prosecutor is out on maternity leave. We have another court where a felony chief will soon be going out on maternity leave.
Recently we had a prosecutor in special crimes out on paternity leave because it’s a man and his wife had a job. He got time off for the birth of their child, and while he was gone, no one was covering his docket. The court is currently without a chief, his trial cases have been spread out throughout the office, to different prosecutors. The biggest issue here is that these cases were already on the trial docket. They’re coming up soon for trial, and they’ve not been assigned to someone who’s even seen the file. Whoever they do get assigned to has to learn the entire case and possibly prepare for trial in that short amount of time.
If your case is caught in one of those courts, and you call us wanting an update, we don’t have one for you, not because we’re not working, but because no one is working on your case at the courthouse. It makes our jobs difficult; I can work as much and as hard as I want, but I cannot force the prosecutor to work, or I cannot force them to fill a space if a prosecutor is not there. I’m dependent upon them running an efficient office, and I can’t do anything about it if they don’t.
Don’t get frustrated when we tell you that we don’t have an update for you. We do actively send emails on all our cases trying to get results. Thomas and I had to step out of the office earlier. He had been texting a prosecutor and she finally called him back and you know, made a comment saying, “I just love it when defense attorneys text me while I’m at lunch.” Of course, we didn’t know she was at lunch. It was past what a typical lunch hour is, and she wasn’t upset about it, she was making a joke.
The point is, she’s another one that just got moved into the position. She likely hasn’t even seen the file we were calling on yet. We’re trying, and she’s a good prosecutor and she will look into it. The point is, we can’t always control what’s happening across the street, we can only control what’s happening in our office. If we’re making requests, and there’s just no one there to fill the vacancy, there is not much we can do about it until that position is filled.
Now for a lot of our clients it’s not a huge issue, other than living with the stress, but you know, you’re not restrained of your liberty, you’re not in jail. Which makes it a little bit more tolerable. We have clients that are in jail and that’s very frustrating. When we have someone sitting in jail and the case we were calling that prosecutor on today, the young lady is in jail, and we’re working hard to get her out. The prosecutor that she had has now been reassigned because of another position becoming vacant. Once she got reassigned, anything she had done on the case just stopped.
Now there’s a new prosecutor on the case. We have to get her to do everything we were trying to get the other prosecutor to do. This poor girl sitting in jail, and her family might feel like we’re not doing anything, we are. It’s just that now that the courthouse is back in operation, the dean’s office is in a crisis because they don’t have enough prosecutors. I guess they’re having trouble hiring new prosecutors. It’s kind of got the whole office in a bind over there, which sometimes is good for us.
Courthouse Is Fully Functioning Again
That is my update for today. The courthouse is fully functional again. The only thing holding us back is the COVID jury restrictions. At least two judges that I’ve talked to about it are hopeful that that’s going to go away starting in January, and we’ll be back to normal jury selection and the normal jury process. This means we can start trying more cases every month and start moving our dockets along. Some judges care about the age of a case on their docket and like to run an efficient docket.
Some judges don’t care that much. Defense attorneys, we have the same issue because I have cases, that we’ve been working on for over a year. While my clients are on bond and suffering, it is a lot to live with. They have to worry about the status of their case all the time.
That will be all I have for today. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to all. If you have been charged with a crime in the Galveston County region or surrounding areas call our Galveston County criminal defense attorneys at (409) 515-6170