FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 01/07/2021
Rep. VanDeaver Files HB 890 to Permanently Allow Remote Hearings in Juvenile Cases
(Austin, TX) - On December 21, 2020, State Representative Gary VanDeaver (New Boston) filed House Bill 890, relating to remotely conducting depositions, hearings, and other proceedings in juvenile cases. The idea for this bill came from Judge Craig Henry of the Bowie County Court of Law, who proposed this change to benefit rural counties that do not have detention centers. Juvenile cases were required to be done face-to-face, but due to safety concerns with COVID, they were allowed to temporarily be held remotely. Judge Henry pointed out that this actually benefits juveniles and the court system by allowing hearings to be held more quickly, and further decreases costs to the state. Representative VanDeaver agreed with Judge Henry and stated the following:
"As we emerge from this pandemic there are many lessons to take with us into the future, and this bill represents one of those lessons. Currently, state law requires these proceedings to be held in person, which involves a lot of scheduling, facilities, and time, all of which also subjects juveniles to extended time in detention centers. Allowing these judicial proceedings to continue being conducted remotely greatly improves the efficiency of the process for the state as well the situation of the juveniles."
The bill makes it possible for judges to hold hearings remotely with the assistance of web-based video-conferencing, while eliminating bureaucratic hurdles by not requiring consent from participants. Further, the bill requires that the Office of Court Administration of the Texas Judicial System (OCA) provides assistance on jury trials. Finally, the bill requires judges to submit a plan on how they will conduct these proceedings, including how they will handle physical evidence and ensure that participants are visible on screen.
If you would like to follow the progress of this legislation, please visit www.capitol.texas.gov.