Texas Supreme Court allows extensions due to Ike

By Marilyn Tennissen | Sep 24, 2008

The Jack Brooks Federal Building in Beaumont remains closed following Hurricane Ike.

The Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont reopened for business on Sept. 24, but attorneys don't need to rush to the clerk's office. The Texas Supreme Court has granted additional time to file documents.

The court issued an order Sept. 24 providing for extended deadlines to file pleadings and other matters because of courthouse closures and other effects from Hurricane Ike.

In a separate order, the court allows Louisiana attorneys displaced by hurricane damage to work from Texas to serve clients in their home state.

The order, accompanied by a per curiam opinion, provides that good cause can exist if a clerk's office is closed and that courts should consider an attorney's dislocation and hardship when considering requests to expand time limits set by court rules.

It notes that statutes allow alternative locations within the same judicial district to conduct judicial proceedings outside counties affected by disaster. Proceedings at these alternative locations must be by the parties' agreement and trials on the merits are excluded.

The court's order, in effect until Oct. 31, cautions that statutory deadlines cannot be extended if a statute does not provide for extension by rule.

In the second order, the court permits Louisiana lawyers to practice law from makeshift Texas locations for the next 30 days. It also allows out-of-state legal-aid attorneys to practice law with Texas legal-aid programs for 30 days.

In other court news, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas-Beaumont Division, remains closed.

U.S. District Judge Thad Heartfield ordered that all civil and criminal cases pending in the Beaumont Division are continued until further order.

The annual Texas Eastern bench/bar conference scheduled for Oct. 16-17 at the Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston has been cancelled due to hurricane damage. Alternatively, a bench/bar dinner may be held in Tyler on Thursday, Oct. 16th.

The federal courthouse in Galveston remains closed, and will conduct business in Houston.

In Houston, the federal courthouse began normal operations on Monday, Sept. 22

For Galveston County, the Justice Center is not damaged and will be operational as soon as electricity and water are reconnected.

By Wednesday, Sept. 24, the Galveston County District Clerk will have the office open in the League City Annex, and there is a courtroom there as well.

Two District Judges, Lonnie Cox and Susan Criss, are available on the mainland for emergency orders/matters. District Judge Jan Yarbrough and County Judge Trey Dibrell are available on Galveston Island for emergency orders/matters.

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