Harris County criminal courts resume in civil courthouse after Harvey floods

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HOUSTON – With flood damage from Hurricane Harvey closing the doors of the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, nearly 40 judges and their courtrooms moved to other locations Monday.

Twenty-two criminal courthouse judges relocated to  courtrooms at the civil courthouse. 

“Civil district court (has) been so gracious to let the criminal district judges come and house with them during this interim period of time,” said Judge Katherine Cabaniss, of the 248th Criminal District Court.

Misdemeanor cases, usually heard at the criminal courthouse, were being held at the old family court building.

Monday morning, judges and court reporters could be seen on the courthouse steps directing people to the right locations.

Because the Harris County CJC suffered extensive damage during Harvey, it is expected to be months before it opens again. So, the Civil Courthouse has made adjustments to its docket to allow more pressing criminal cases to proceed. 

“The civil courts have buddied up, from 9 to 12, buddied up with our suite mates, and we won't be holding jury trials for September and October to relieve the pressure on the system,” said Judge Robert Schaffer, an administrative judge for the district courts in Harris County.

Even jury duty has been affected.

People summoned for jury duty before Sept. 22 do not need to appear and do not need to reschedule. After that date, the Harris County District Clerk’s office suggests people call or check its website to confirm their summons.

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