Texas Supreme Court advisory

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information
512.463.1441 or click for email

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In an order issued Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court appointed a task force to begin design and implementation of an emergency program to prevent or manage disrupted court operations throughout the state in emergencies.

Under its charge, the Task Force to Ensure Judicial Readiness in Times of Emergency will identify existing gaps in court security, abilities to operate and other preparedness functions and response policies, procedures, and programs within the Texas judiciary. It will develop an interim plan to fill gaps it identifies in the beginning, then design an emergency management program, oversee it and work with court officials and others outside the judicial system to install it.

“Normal court operations may be at risk during an emergency,” Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson said. “Our courts must able to quickly deploy personnel, equipment, vital records and technological support so that the rule of law is preserved and substantial rights are protected.”

Denise Davis of Austin, special counsel with the Baker Botts law firm, will chair the task force. Justice Don Willett will be the Court’s liaison.

“Emergency preparedness is a critical and challenging issue facing our court system today,” Davis said. “Having worked in all branches of state government for some 14 years, and now in private practice, I am prepared to accept this unique challenge that affects all aspects of the judiciary.”

The planning will include developing response plans for adoption by individual courts that would continue operations in the event of hurricanes, pandemics, violence, terrorism and threats to computer systems. Task force members will identify ways to ensure that response plans adopted by Texas courts are consistent with regional and statewide procedures, that plans are tested and that court staffs and emergency response teams are trained.


“This task force will ensure that the Texas justice system stands strong and withstands any crisis that erupts,” Justice Willett said.

The 16-member task force will plan for simulated-disaster exercises and will update and modify existing procedures.

The first task force meeting is scheduled December 13.