The Texas judiciary announced that the state’s judges have held over one million court hearings via Zoom. The milestone was reached after more than 2,000 state judges used the platform to host virtual proceedings since the pandemic began in March 2020.
The one millionth Zoom hearing was held by Johnson County Court at Law Judge Robert Mayfield on February 3.
“The pandemic has greatly challenged all professions, especially the judiciary,” Mayfield said in a press release. “Suddenly we found all our familiar norms were no longer viable and judges were forced to adapt on the fly. When I took the bench in 1999 my computer skills were limited. I could email staff and purchase books online. Now my normal court day is conducted in cyberspace—hearings, pleas, conferences, rulings, and signatures are all controlled by pushing keys and clicking a mouse. Never could I have imagined this, but the judiciary, using modern technology, has met the challenge of our new world.”
Texas was also the first state to have its Supreme Court host remote oral arguments, the first state to hold a virtual non-binding jury trial in May 2020, and the first state to hold a virtual criminal jury trial in August 2020.
“This time last year I thought ‘Zoom’ meant to hurry down the highway,” Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht said in a press release. “Now Zoom has revolutionized the Texas justice system, allowing courts to continue to function without the health risks to court participants from in-person proceedings. I am proud of our Texas judges for their ability to adapt to a new way of holding court and their commitment to ensuring justice continues throughout the pandemic.”
Tarrant County District Judge Mollee Westfall and Edinburg Child Protection Court Judge Carlos Villalon are the judiciary’s top users of Zoom, hosting the most online hearings during the past year.
To satisfy open court constitutional provisions, judges stream the proceedings online via YouTube. A listing of court YouTube channels can be found at streams.txcourts.gov.