PHOTO: The City of Victoria Municipal Court has added an on-site virtual kiosk to allow defendants without Zoom access to attend E-Court sessions.
The City of Victoria Municipal Court will not conduct any jury trials or bench trials until September as social distancing requirements continue to limit the court’s ability to host in-person proceedings.
Under current guidance from the state Office of Court Administration, jury trials may not be conducted remotely before Sept. 1. In addition, Municipal Court Judge Vanessa Heinold is voluntarily suspending bench trials as the court explores whether they can be offered in a just and efficient manner.
“We’ve been holding contested hearings on a limited basis, and those have gone well,” Heinold said. “We may start hosting bench trials through Zoom, but only if we can ensure the same safeguards and access to justice that defendants would have during an in-person trial.”
Municipal Court continues to host E-Court appearances through Zoom, both open sessions and mandatory scheduled sessions. Anyone who is unable to access Zoom to attend a mandatory session may schedule an appointment with Municipal Court to use the virtual kiosk located in the courtroom to be connected remotely with Heinold. The kiosk is equipped with a countertop sneeze guard so that court staff may safely provide assistance if needed. The kiosk is cleaned and sanitized between sessions.
Visitors using the virtual kiosk must complete a health screening, which includes a temperature check and a symptom questionnaire, and must wear facial coverings. The court has disposable masks available. No walk-ins are allowed, and friends and family may not accompany the E-Court attendee.
The court also added a YouTube channel, Victoria Municipal Court, to host livestreams of E-Court sessions to ensure that court proceedings remain open to the public.
Municipal Court recently collaborated with the City’s Communications team to produce a video tutorial explaining how to use Zoom to attend an E-Court appearance. The tutorial may be viewed on Municipal Court’s Facebook page or on the City’s YouTube channel, Victoria Texas Videos.
For more information about Municipal Court, including a schedule of E-Court dockets, visit www.victoriatx.gov.