Gregg County court slowly catching up on backlogged cases

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 11:50 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 7:56 PM CDT
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LONGVIEW, Texas (KLTV) - In Gregg County the district courts are catching up, little by little. The ability to schedule jury trials on a regular basis, as well as using Zoom, is chipping away at the docket.

In the 124th District Court, Judge Alfonso Charles tries about as many cases as he can schedule. It’s the same with Judge Scott Novy in the 188th.

“We normally try criminal cases at least twice a month. But then we’ve also been backing up our civil docket with criminal cases so that’s allowed us to have basically three jury trial weeks per month,” Charles said.

And sometimes, just getting potential jurors in place speeds up the process.

“Both in civil and criminal cases, until parties really see that it’s for real and there’s a jury panel out in the hallway, it helps a lot of times. Parties will come to terms with their disagreements and get those cases worked out,” Charles said.

There may be jury selection for all courts at the Gregg County Courthouse every week, but there can be a non-jury week.

“We’ve had one week where everything was settled and we’re able to move about six cases that week on guilty pleas, or getting them set for guilty pleas,” Charles said.

And the Zoom hearings will continue.

“It’s safer for everybody because the jail doesn’t have to bring somebody down, especially if they’re in the north jail. They don’t have to cross the street, they can just do it from there, so it’s safer for the security staff and for everybody,” Charles said.

Remote hearings don’t eat up a deputy’s time or add travel time to a defendant’s bill.

“It’s less expensive for the attorney, and for their clients. The client won’t be billed for a ten-hour trip, billed for a fifteen-minute hearing,” Charles said.

Catching up will take time.

“It took us over a year to get in this situation and it’s not going to magically clear up overnight,” Charles said.

Judge Charles says if a trial or hearing is a contested criminal matter, a defendant being held in jail does have the right to be present in the courtroom if they wish, but pleas and probation revocations will be done remotely.

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