Highest court in Texas tackles Harvey delays by extending deadlines

Williamson County Sheriff's Office crews helping rescue people stuck in floodwaters in Houston on Aug. 30, 2017. (KXAN Photo)
Williamson County Sheriff's Office crews helping rescue people stuck in floodwaters in Houston on Aug. 30, 2017. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hurricane Harvey even slowed down the justice system in counties along the coast.

The state’s highest courts have the authority to suspend civil and criminal cases during disasters, and this week they did just that.

KXAN’s Josh Hinkle sat down with the man leading that major decision, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas Nathan Hecht.

“Courthouses have been destroyed, are underwater, have no power,” Justice Hecht said. “Judges are evacuated, living at home, trapped. Court personnel are unable to get to work, have family issues themselves.”

The justices are trying to work with clerks and judges throughout Texas’ coast to help them carry on their business electronically. “…Even if they can’t get to computers, they can at least text or call or something, we can get the work done here.”

When asked if the delays will affect the justice system in Austin, Hecht said the Supreme Court’s orders will allow, for example, an attorney in Houston that has a case in Austin, to enlarge deadlines.

“There might be small delays, but I think generally speaking courts outside the region won’t notice it very much,” Justice Hecht continued.

The Supreme Court is also considering allowing the county judge in storm-ravaged Rockport to set up his court in a neighboring county to keep the wheels of justice in motion.

The order expires Sept. 27, but may be extended.

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