The following section is a recommended addition that we have made to Representative Calanni. (Her office is the author and sponsor of this bill and relates to locations for conducting certain court proceedings.)
It is Texas Public Policy and objective to achieve “a just, fair, equitable and impartial adjudication of the rights of litigants under established principles of substantive law.” (Rule 1 Texas Rules of Civil Procedure)
The following is recommended to be added to HB 2638 to ensure the fair hearing policies that are intended in the TRCP.
Rule 247, regarding when hearings are tried and set should be amended. The rule currently reads as follows:
Every suit shall be tried when it is called, unless continued or postponed to a future day or placed at the end of the docket to be called again for trial in its regular order. No cause which has been set upon the trial docket of the court shall be taken from the trial docket for the date set except by agreement of the parties or for good cause upon motion and notice to the opposing party.
The following was recommended be added as Section 4 and Section 4 to be made Section 5:
(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including Section 26.002(c), if a disaster, as defined by Section 418.004, occurs in an area where a party, key witness, an attorney or any of the attorney’s staff pertinent to the hearing deem that is unable to travel safely to the court, the party affected, may without the agreement of the other party, upon oral motion and notice, ask the trial court for a new hearing date. The notice can be done urgently and on the date of the hearing if that is the date the disaster occurred. If the disaster has been ongoing and there is time for written notice and hearing according to the TRCP notice requirements should be followed. When a motion and notice has been given, the judge shall consider that this request has been made for good cause and the hearing shall be reset to either another jurisdiction or just for another date when the disaster does not meet that section.
If the court resets in another location it shall be in accordance with Section 24.033(b):
(1) in the county; or
(2) at the location outside the county closest in proximity to the county seat that allows the court to safely and reasonably [at which the court may] conduct its proceedings.
This recommendation is being made because there have been some family court judges who insist on proceeding with a hearing during severe weather that has impacted certain areas and not others, and therefore, because the judge and perhaps some of each side decided to travel in dangerous conditions or the conditions did not affect their specific neighborhood, has disadvantaged a parent who did not feel safe to travel or key witnesses could not make it and were disadvantaged.