SAN ANTONIO — With many hearings postponed as courts try to mitigate any potential spread of coronavirus, a longstanding and little known court is stepping in to keep the justice system moving along for inmates at the Bexar County Jail.
Jail court, as its name implies, is on the same campus as the Bexar County Jail, allowing inmates to be present for hearings without having to be transported to the courthouse.
Jail court hears a number of matters, including pleas and motions to revoke probation.
“Jail court is not anything new, they’ve been doing it here for years," said attorney Frank Sandoval. "It really helps with efficiency so that people’s cases can be heard more expeditiously.”
Sandoval was in jail court Thursday afternoon, going before a judge with his client, who is incarcerated at the Bexar County Jail, to see whether his client would be allowed to continue on probation. He said the court is allowing some non-violent offenders to get justice sooner than they would in traditional courts, which have scaled back the number of hearings held.
Sandoval, who has practiced law in San Antonio for more than two decades, said he thinks the changes and anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic have softened the adversarial nature of the legal system, adding that it's brought agencies and individuals together.
“This is one segment where the different parties are coming together to see that justice be done,” Sandoval said.
In light of the pandemic, and as a precautionary measure, attorneys, jail court staff and inmates must have their temperature is taken before they can enter the courtroom. Many county buildings also have signs posted indicating that only essential personnel or people with county business may enter.
In an effort to practice social distancing, the county courts have suspended all dockets until next month while the the criminal district courts have postponed all nonessential hearings and jury services.