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Posted on: March 23, 2021

Municipal Court prepares to host virtual jury trials

Laptop on counter in Municipal Court courtroom

PHOTO: The City of Victoria Municipal Court’s virtual kiosk is available to defendants without access to attend virtual court sessions. The kiosk is disinfected between uses.

The City of Victoria Municipal Court plans to start conducting virtual jury trials within about three months as the court continues its suspension of in-person proceedings.

Tiffany Totah“We want to be mindful of the current public health situation, but we also don’t want to delay justice,” said Municipal Court Administrator Tiffany Totah. “The virtual jury trials will allow defendants to safely exercise their right to have their day in court.”

The Texas Office of Court Administration in October 2020 announced it would allow courts to host virtual jury trials. Since that time, Municipal Court has been collaborating with other courts to discuss ideas about how to host remote jury trials. As other courts implemented virtual trials, Totah began observing their trials and attending training sessions to learn more.

The court is also working with the Office of Court Administration to address challenges associated with remote jury trials. For example, the OCA recommends that participants use a device larger than a cell phone so they can view multiple people at once. To address this problem, the court will ask potential jurors about their devices and will work with the OCA to procure tablets that can be loaned to participants.

Municipal Court recently applied and was chosen by the National Center of State Courts to participate in an implementation lab that will include 40 courts from around the U.S. Participating courts will share resources and participate in workshops as they implement remote proceedings, and their experiences will be shared with other courts.

Totah said that as the pandemic continues, courts are learning that remote proceedings not only are possible but in some cases improve access to justice.

“We see defendants from all over the state who may have driven through Victoria and gotten a speeding ticket, and virtual hearings allow them to take care of that without having to drive in or take a day off work,” Totah said.

For more information, contact Municipal Court at 361-485-3050 or courtclerk@victoriatx.gov. To learn more about Municipal Court’s policies and to view a schedule of upcoming dockets, visit www.victoriatx.gov/municipalcourt.

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