Resources For The Ellis County Legal Community Regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
The Ellis County judicial system and our office are taking precautionary measures to limit our community's exposure to the virus.
This week, Ellis County announced the first presumptive positive COVID-19 case, which is believed to have been contracted by community contact. As the virus continues to spread around the nation and in our own community, the Ellis County judicial system and our office are taking precautionary measures to limit our community's exposure to the virus.
As we continue to monitor reports of the impact of Coronavirus, we want to assure the Ellis County community and our clients that Foster Massengill, PLLC, remains committed to delivering outstanding legal assistance and solutions.
This page was created to serve as a resource for the Ellis County legal community, providing updates, helpful links and the latest information related to COVID-19 and its impact on our local judicial system.
Ellis County Courts Response to COVID-19
Effective March 16, 2020, all non-essential hearings have been canceled by the Ellis County Courts for the remainder of March and April.
In a joint COVID-19 Mitigation and Docket Control Plan, the Courts stated that they are committed to “keeping the courts open and functioning smoothly to the maximum extent practical,” while protecting to the health and safety of attorneys, litigants, court participants, witnesses, support personnel, clerks, deputies, jailers, and judicial staff, as well as the community at large from the spread of the coronavirus.
In the Mitigation and Docket Control Plan, the Ellis County District Courts and County Courts at Law outline how they plan to function during the initial stages of the coronavirus public health emergency. Below is a short summary of what is detailed in the plan.
As of now, all civil, criminal, and family law jury trials which are scheduled to begin with jury selection on or before April 30, 2020 have been postponed. Court coordinators for each trial are expected to work with attorneys via email or phone in order to reschedule jury trial dates. On April 15, the courts are expected to confirm whether jury trials scheduled to begin after April 30 will be able to proceed as scheduled.
Felony Criminal Cases
Felony criminal dockets, such as those for arraignments, pretrial hearings including suppression hearings, revocations, and trial announcements, that are scheduled to occur on or before April 30, 2020 are also postponed and will be rescheduled by each respective court coordinator.
However, all writs of habeas corpus hearings and hearings on writs to reduce bond amounts are considered essential court functions and will take place weekly as outlined in the Mitigation and Docket Control Plan. Agreed pleas received from inmates currently in custody are also considered essential court functions and will take place weekly as scheduled.
The control plan leaves room for other felony criminal matters considered to be an essential court function which the judge determines to be necessary to achieve justice and prevent the right of the state or defense from being denied or prejudiced.
All grand jury meetings which are scheduled to occur on or before April 30, 2020 are also canceled. Meetings will be rescheduled by the Ellis County and District Attorney's Office.
General misdemeanor criminal dockets for legal matters such as arraignments and pretrial hearings are postponed until after April 30, and will be rescheduled by the court coordinator.
Like felony criminal cases, writs of habeas corpus are considered to be essential court functions. Hearing dates will be scheduled by counsel and the court coordinator via email. All writs must be accompanied by a sworn verification or
certificate of conference, stating that efforts were undertaken by defense counsel to reach an agreement on the merits with the district attorney’s office, but that those efforts were unsuccessful.
Additionally, trials, proceedings, or hearings for incarcerated defendants where an outcome favorable to the defendant would result in immediate release from incarceration are considered to be essential court functions and will proceed as scheduled.
Similarly, any misdemeanor plea agreements made by inmates in custody will take place as scheduled.
At the court’s discretion, hearings may be conducted by video conference or other electronic means, and all agreed orders may be submitted electronically.
CPS Hearings, Mental Health Proceedings, and Other Essential Court Matters
CPS removals, 14-day adversary hearings and mental health proceedings will be handled on a case-by-case basis, and attorneys are encouraged to communicate with the court coordinate via email.
Family Law Matters
Courts will focus on hearings on temporary restraining orders and temporary injunctions; hearings on temporary protective orders and family violence protective orders; and hearings involving writs of attachment or writs of habeas corpus.
Agreed final divorces and final modifications, and all contested applications or motions for temporary orders, with testimony, will be handled by submission.
All final trials on the merits will be postponed and may be rescheduled once the COVID-19 Mitigation and Docket Control Plan is lifted.
Please read the full Mitigation and Docket Control Plan for additional family law guidelines HERE.
Juvenile detention hearings and pleas and case resolutions for juveniles currently in a detention facility are considered to be essential functions of the court and will proceed as scheduled.
All civil jury trials have been postponed. In addition, all final non-jury bench trials scheduled to begin on or before April 30, 2020 are also postponed. Counsel is encouraged to communicate with the court coordinator via email to reschedule on an agreed upon date.
Temporary Restraining orders and hearings for injunctions are considered essential court functions and will be handled on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the Mitigation and Control Plan.
For more information about the COVID-19 Mitigation and Control Plan, visit the Judicial District Court Judges HERE.
The Texas Supreme Court issued an emergency order March 19, 2020 halting all eviction proceedings in Texas through late April. While eviction filings can still be submitted, no trial, hearing, or other eviction proceeding may be conducted until after April 19. The order is effective immediately, and can be extended by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Ellis County Clerk COVID-19 Response
Starting March 18, 2020, the County Clerk’s Office is limiting in-person transactions to appointments only for essential needs. For further instructions regarding purchasing vital records, public records or marriage licenses, you can contact the County Clerk office.
For more information, visit the Ellis County Clerk website HERE.
Ellis County Sheriff's Response To Coronavirus
The Ellis County Sheriff has also reached out to the defense bar regarding visitation issues. Currently, the sheriff's office is conducting in person client visits and “through the glass” visits. They are currently working to set up video visitations without recording to facilitate visitations that do not require attorney contact.
Foster Massengill, PLLC
Our office will be taking all reasonable steps to avoid exposure or spreading the virus. Until April 15, 2020, our office will no longer be taking non-essential in-person meetings. We will remain available for consultations, client meetings, etc. via video teleconference (if video capability is not available, we will consider teleconference on a case by case basis).
Additionally, we expect significant delays with the Courts even after these precautionary measures are lifted and we ask that you remain patient as we diligently work within the legal system and the Courts to ensure that your matter is handled in the most timely manner possible considering the situation.
You can read more about how our office is responding to COVID-19 HERE.
Helpful COVID-19 Links:
Joint Covid-19 Mitigation and Docket Control Plan: https://co.ellis.tx.us/DocumentCenter/View/10951/Joint-COVID19-MitigationDocket-Control-Plan
Current and Upcoming Court Closings: http://txcourts.gov/programs-services/court-security/emergency-court-preparedness/closures/
Ellis County Judicial District Court Judges: https://co.ellis.tx.us/771/Judicial-District-Court-Judges
Texas Supreme Court: https://www.txcourts.gov/supreme