Civil court trials in Dallas County on hold for one week due to rising COVID concerns

The increase in COVID cases is leading to a decrease in court cases.

All trials in the George Allen Civil Courthouse have been put on hold for one week.

Dallas County decided to cancel all jury trials for one week due to rising COVID concerns. But things will look different once limited trials resume next week.

Civil Court Administrative Judge Maricela Moore made the decision over the weekend to pause all trials one week because of the COVID risk level in Dallas County moving from yellow to orange.

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Moore says it’s too much of a risk for civil court trials to continue as they have been with as many as 60 potential jurors being brought into a courtroom for jury selection.

"The difficulty is not necessarily the social distancing inside the courtroom," she said. "It’s during the jury selection process."

Moore says there is concern over mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated people in a jury panel.  

"That’s a reality. We cannot ask people, ‘Are you vaccinated?’ We cannot put that on a jury questionnaire," she said. "We are very sensitive to the fact that those who are vaccinated don’t want to necessarily serve alongside those that are not, and so that is a challenge."

Things will resume Monday, Aug. 2 in a limited capacity.

"We will call the jurors down to central jury room and use that larger space for the jury selection process," Moore explained. "Once the jurors are selected, twelve or six, they will then go to a courtroom and serve."

The hope is to select one or two juries per day.

Civil trial lawyer Michael Hurst says it’s easy to see COVID's impact causing a slowdown in trials again.

"As far as trials go, the backlog is immense," he said. "And it’s obviously nobody's fault than the pandemic,"

Hurst says while lawyers want to get back in courts and work for their clients, they understand the need for limited trials.

"It's not gonna do anybody any favors or good if the trials taking place and everybody's getting sick," he said.

Judge Moore says her goal is to keep that from happening 

"We already have individuals that are under court summons, and they appear next Monday," she said. "We'll be ready on Monday with procedures to allow for us to pick one, if not two juries, every single day in this courthouse."