Court Coronavirus Information
- Best Practices for All Court Proceedings During COVID-19 Pandemic (Issued March 2021)
- Petit Juror COVID-19 Pre-Screening Questionnaire
- Remote Juror Questionnaire
- Report: Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Observations & Recommendations (Issued August 2020)
Most Recent Update
April 28, 2021
Supreme Court Updates and Extends Eviction Diversion Program
Today the Supreme Court issued the Thirty-Seventh Emergency Order that amends and extends the Texas Eviction Diversion Program. The new order extends the program until at least July 27, unless extended by the Chief Justice. The order also makes a few key changes to the program as follows:
- Clarifies that a judge in a county court hearing an eviction case de novo on appeal must discuss the eviction diversion program with the parties; inquire about their interest in participating; and follow the requirements of the order if the parties are interested in participating, including order the justice court to make the eviction files confidential;
- Permits the judge to extend the abatement order in 60 day increments upon the request of the plaintiff;
- In cases where the landlord/tenant do not indicate at the trial that they wish to participate in the eviction diversion program but later indicate that they do wish to participate in the program, requires the judge to set aside any judgment, make the records confidential, and sign a written order stating the procedures that apply for reinstating the judgment or dismissing the eviction action. This provision does not apply if the writ of possession has issued.
So far, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs has distributed almost $19 million to almost 2,200 households through the Eviction Diversion Program with another $8.2 million in payments to 989 households in progress. You can find out more about the rent relief funding or refer landlords or tenants to texasrentrelief.com. An up-to-date website with data on amounts and households funded (by county or zip code) can be found here.
Supreme Court’s Thirty-Fourth Emergency Order Expires
On March 31, the Supreme Court’s Thirty-Fourth Emergency Order expired. Since then, the Office of Court Administration has received a number of questions about what the order’s expiration means for the CDC’s moratorium and Texas eviction actions.
As you may know, the CDC’s moratorium is being challenged in several federal courts. Some of those challenges have been successful, while others have not. Texas courts should familiarize themselves with the relevant opinions, which include:
- Tiger Lily, LLC v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2021 WL 1165170 (6th Cir. Mar. 29, 2021);
- Skyworks, Ltd. V. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021 WL 911720 (N.D. Ohio Mar. 10, 2021)
- Terkel v. Centers for Disease Control, 2021 WL 742877 (E.D. Tex. Feb. 25, 2021);
- Chambless Enterprises, LLC v. Redfield, 2020 WL7588849 (W.D. La Dec. 22, 2020); and
- Brown v. Azar, 2020 WL 6364310 (N.D. Ga. Oct. 29, 2020).
The CDC’s moratorium has not been challenged in the Supreme Court of Texas, and the order’s expiration is not a statement by the Supreme Court on the validity of the CDC’s moratorium. Its expiration simply means that the statewide procedures that were in the order are no longer required, and its expiration allows Texas courts to develop their own procedures—like the pleading, citation, abatement, and challenge procedures that were in the order—for implementing the CDC’s moratorium should they decide the CDC’s moratorium applies. The Supreme Court’s Thirty-Sixth Emergency Order remains in effect.
As a best practice, Texas courts should be clear about any changes or suspensions of rules in their court and make such changes or suspensions in writing and available to the affected parties.
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