Texas Courts Turn to Mediation during COVID-19 Outbreak
Wednesday, April, 8, 2020
Numerous emergency court cases must be heard despite the COVID-19 health pandemic, but things are not proceeding as usual. Virtual mediation sessions are being used to deal with matters that cannot be dealt with in person.
According to Lubbock County Judge Curtis Parrish, “We have still been operating. Now, we are conducting all of our programs either by telephone or by this technology we have here — Zoom — or with Microsoft Teams. ”
Some cases have been pushed back, according to area lawyers, but those that cannot be delayed or that arise and are urgent during the pandemic must be dealt with using slightly out-of-the-norm methods.
In some cases, dates were originally delayed until late April or May, but even those are being postponed again. Lawyers and court officials say virtual methods for dealing with court matters is not ideal, but it is working for now.
One lawyer described the situation and its challenges. “It is really hard to try a case telephonically — entering [things] into evidence, and getting to cross-examine a witness over the phone is much more difficult than in person.” He said it is also hard coming up with all of the ideas that are possible for being implemented right now and pointed out that mediation is an effective tool at the moment. “Being able to continue doing mediation right now will help people get a resolution in their case. All you have to do after that is get the court order signed but the mediation can be binding and in effect at the time at signed. ”
The court also notes that regardless of social distancing measures, matters related to Child Protective Services remain the same and parents should continue with their directives even if their city had been issued stay-at-home orders.