Houston’s criminal courts to reopen in different locations next week

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Houston’s misdemeanor and felony courts will be relocated for the next six to nine months because of storm damage to the Harris County criminal courthouse, the county’s judges announced Wednesday. 

The courthouse, which sits on the Buffalo Bayou, had sewage explode out of bathrooms up to the second floor; rain and winds shattered windows and disrupted a chilling system that caused several water leaks.

“The business of the Harris County District Courts is for the most part open,” Judge Bob Schaffer said a press conference. “But we’ve had this little storm come about that has caused us to relocate to many places.”

Docket calls for suspects free on bail will resume Sept. 11. People who missed their court date from Aug. 28 to Sept. 8 will not lose their bond for not appearing, officials said.

Houston has dozens of state district courts, which are tasked with handling serious crimes, juvenile crime, divorces and child custody cases and high-dollar lawsuits.

The 22 district courts that handle felonies will move to courtrooms in the civil courthouse across the street at 201 Caroline and a block away at the juvenile courthouse at 1200 Congress.

The 15 county courts at law that handle misdemeanor crimes, like shoplifting and minor drug possession, will move across the street to the Family Law Courthouse at 1115 Congress.

The civil courts, family law courts and probate courts will combine courtrooms to make room, officials said.

The gathering of judges on Wednesday emphasized that people with jury summonses up to Sept. 15 need not appear, and said there would be few if any jury trials until mid-October.

The judges also said defendants who are free on bail and have missed court because of Hurricane Harvey, or may miss court in the near future, can expect judicial leniency as long as they are in contact with the court, their bailbondsman or Harris County’s District Clerk’s office.

Those officials included state District Judge Susan Brown, County Court at Law Judge Paula Goodhart, Civil judge David Farr, Juvenile Judge Mike Schneider and District Clerk Chris Daniel.

Questions about jury duty can be addressed by the Harris County District Clerk at www.hcdistrictclerk.com or call: (832)927-5800

Specific locations for courts will be posted as soon as possible at the following websites and social media sites:
1. The Harris County Criminal District Courts Facebook Page
2. The Harris County District Clerks Facebook Page
3. www.justex.net
4. www.ccl.hctx.net/criminal
5. www.attyportal.harriscountytx.gov

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