HOUSTON – Harris County judges Wednesday detailed their plan to get the criminal justice system up and running after floodwaters prompted officials to shutter the criminal courthouse and jury assembly building in downtown Houston.
The main point judges wanted to emphasize during a news conference was communication between defendants and the courts.
“Do not be afraid to come to court,” said Judge Paula Goodhart, who oversees the county’s misdemeanor courts.
Goodhart said there will be a level understanding by judges in light of the destruction and disruption caused by Hurricane Harvey. She reassured defendants that if they missed a court date during the storm, their bond will not be forfeited.
Judge Susan Brown, who oversees the district criminal courts, said there are about 40 courts that must be relocated. She said courts will begin doubling up in courtrooms at the civil courthouse and the juvenile justice center starting Monday.
Grand juries will begin assembling Thursday at the 1910 Harris County Courthouse on Fannin Street, Brown said.
Goodhart said misdemeanor courts will begin holding staggered dockets in the morning and afternoon at the Family Law Center at 1115 Congress Street.
Both judges said they aim to begin jury trials again by mid-October, saying that should give ample time for summonses to be sent out and attorneys to prepare for cases.
“We encourage you to reach out to the resources that are out there to find out what your court setting is,” Goodhart said.
People with questions about their cases should contact the Harris County District Clerk’s Office at hcdistrictclerk.com or 832-927-5800.
Officials said Tuesday it could take as long as nine months to repair the damage to the criminal courthouse and jury assembly building.