Senator Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) has filed legislation to allow Texas courts to conduct remote proceedings, including jury trials, on a permanent and ongoing basis. SB 690 adds §21.013, Government Code, to authorize a court of this state, either on its own motion or on motion of a party, to (1) conduct a hearing or other proceeding remotely without consent of the parties (except where consent is constitutionally required), and (2) allow a judge, party, attorney, witness, court reporter, juror, or any other individual to participate in a remote proceeding, including a deposition, hearing, trial, or other proceeding. If a jury trial is to be conducted remotely, the court shall consider on the record any motion or objection related to proceeding with the trial not later than 7 days before trial, or if a motion or objection is made within 7 days before trial, as soon as practicable. The bill further requires the court to ensure that prospective jurors have access to the necessary technology. If the court will hold a proceeding away from the court’s usual location, the court shall give the public reasonable notice. Finally, the bill repeals §30.012(b), CPRC, which permits a witness deposition by electronic means only if it is conducted before the commencement of trial.
Senator Zaffirini is one of the four legislative members of the Texas Judicial Council. Chaired by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, the 16-member body composed of judges, legislators, and non-lawyer members that study the operations of the judiciary and make recommendations to the Legislature for improvements.