We at the Moss Law Firm want to keep you informed. During this uncertain time, we want you to know that while many government buildings are closed to the public, lawsuits are still being filed, and lawyers are still working on your cases, albeit in a different environment and with some new regulations in place. These are 3 changes you should know about during this public health crisis:
1. Some Courts Have Authorized Video Conferencing
While many courts have outright cancelled their scheduled hearings and trial settings through May 2020, some courts in Harris, Fort Bend, and Galveston County, Texas have authorized video conferencing for routine matters. The application Zoom has been implemented to allow people to "appear" in Court proceedings, while maintaining the social distancing guidelines mandated by the state and local government to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Each court has some level of discretion about how these matters are addressed, and some courts have allowed written affidavit testimony instead of in-person appearances for uncontested issues. This makes it critical for people with legal problems to contact a local attorney who is familiar with the court policies and procedures, which are changing rapidly as the situation is assessed.
2. Notaries Have Been Temporarily Allowed to Witness Documents Remotely
On April 8, 2020, Governor Abbott issued an order temporarily allowing Texas notaries to acknowledge certain documents by video conference. This order specifically applies to self-proving affidavits for wills, durable powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney, directives to physicians, and oaths of executors, administrators, and guardians. There are some specific guidelines the notary must follow to acknowledge these documents, and if witnesses are required for these documents to be effective, those witnesses must still be physically present to witness the document being signed. I am very thankful that our state government is mindful of the fact that while some people are working from home, people are still living their lives, and this order makes it easier for us to continue helping people get their affairs in order and for the administration of justice to carry on in spite of the crisis.
3. Lawsuits are Still Being Filed
COVID-19 has not stopped people from being litigious. The district and county clerk's offices are still accepting lawsuits filed by attorneys and pro se litigants, although many of them have set up drop boxes outside of the buildings for these filings. The process of serving defendants has changed, however, and some clerks have requested certain procedures to prevent delays in making sure defendants are aware of the cases being filed against them so that they can preserve their rights and defend against claims. In the midst of these changes, we are still here for you. COVID-19 has impacted the entire world, but we are still here to protect your way of life. Call us to schedule a phone or video conference appointment to discuss your legal needs today: 713-574-8626.