Court Guidance and Closures  | Stay Home Stay Safe Orders  | Governor’s Executive Orders  |  Free Lawyer Resources/Webinars  |  Free Legal Resources for the Public  |  SBOT Response Measures  |  SBOT Event Cancellations/Delays  |  Disciplinary System Cancellations/Delays  |  SBOT Committees/Sections  |  State/Federal Health Resources

State Bar of Texas Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

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The thoughts of all State Bar of Texas leaders and employees are with everyone affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We are assessing the needs of Texas lawyers and the public and will continue to seek solutions to issues that arise in the coming months.

In an effort to minimize the potential spread of the virus, State Bar employees are now working remotely, and State Bar offices are temporarily closed to visitors. We continue to provide essential services, but please bear with us if it takes us a little longer than usual to answer your calls or email messages.

Also, the State Bar of Texas is canceling, postponing, or going online with all live events through at least May 10 in line with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We will continue to keep you informed of the State Bar’s response by email, social media, and this web page. You can also sign up for the State Bar’s Daily News Briefing at texasbar.com/dailynews to receive the latest legal news updates in your inbox every weekday.

Sincerely,
Randy Sorrels, President
Trey Apffel, Executive Director

Court Guidance and Closures

Supreme Court of Texas Orders

All emergency orders expire on May 8, 2020 unless extended by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

  • Emergency Order 1 - Issued 3/13/2020
    Permits all judges in the state at their discretion, and requires all judges “to avoid risk to court staff, parties, attorneys, jurors, and the public”, without a participant’s consent.

  • Emergency Order 2 - Issued 3/17/2020
    Clarifies that child possession schedules establishing access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule are not affected by the school’s closure that arises from an epidemic or pandemic and that the original published school schedule controls.

  • Emergency Order 3 - Issued 3/18/2020
    Modifies Emergency Order 1, prohibits judges from conducting non-essential proceedings in person contrary to local, state, or national directives, whichever is most restrictive, regarding maximum group size.

  • Emergency Order 4 - Issued 3/18/2020
    Prohibits a trial, hearing, or other proceeding in an eviction to recover possession of residential property under Chapter 24 of the Property Code and Rule 510 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure until after April 19, 2020.

  • Emergency Order 5 - Issued 3/20/2020
    All deadlines, whether prescribed by statute, rule, or order, related to attorney professional disciplinary and disability proceedings are tolled.

  • Emergency Order 6 - Issued 3/24/2020
    The 2020 elections for presidents-elect and directors of the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Young Lawyers Association must be conducted online only, by electronic vote, and not by paper ballot. The voting period is extended to 5 p.m. May 29, 2020.

  • Emergency Order 7 - Issued 3/24/2020
    Clarifies possession schedules in Suits Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship. For purposes of determining a person’s right to possession of and access to a child under a court-ordered possession schedule, the existing trial court order shall control in all instances. Possession of and access to a child shall not be affected by any shelter-in-place order or other order restricting movement issued by a governmental entity.

  • Emergency Order 8 – Issued 4/1/2020
    Delays all service and statute-of-limitations deadlines in civil cases from March 13 until June 1 unless the chief justice extends it. The tolling does not affect deadlines for filing appeals or other appellate proceedings, but the order notes that requests for any such relief should be “generously granted” by the particular court.

Office of Court Administration Guidance

  • Court Closures: You can check the Office of Court Administration’s website for information on closures or delays reported to the OCA.

  • Court Procedures: The Office of Court Administration (OCA) has released updated guidance on court procedures for the coronavirus. You can read them here.

  • Travel Authorization: The OCA issued a Travel Authorization letter on March 26 for attorneys and staff under stay-at-home orders. It states that as the need for legal services increases during the pandemic, Texas lawyers should lead by example with telework, alternatives to in-person meetings, and social distancing, but that they also must be permitted to practice law during local stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on travel and business practices—as long as every effort is made to avoid risks to the public health. Read the letter here. The OCA released a similar travel authorization letter for judges, clerks, and their staff. Read that letter here.

  • Live-Streaming Proceedings: The OCA is providing judges the ability to stream and host court proceedings via Zoom and YouTube. Only State of Texas Judges are eligible for access to the OCA-provided Zoom accounts. To request access or inquire about a previous request please contact: zoomhelp@txcourts.gov. For more information and an OCA list of resources including Zoom 101, setup help, meeting controls, and other tips, go here. For a list of court YouTube channels, click here.

  • Methods of Document Service: The OCA also advises that because of uncertainty regarding the feasibility of accessing documents delivered by mail, commercial delivery service, fax, or such other similar methods during the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly as shelter-in-place orders take effect and large numbers of people are working from home—email service should be used, whenever feasible, as an additional or alternative method of service. Courts are also advised to use email as an additional or alternative method of notifying parties of orders, judgments, and the like, when possible.

  • Chapter 81 Hearings: The Texas judiciary is preparing for the possibility of needing to hold hearings under Chapter 81, Health and Safety Code (quarantine). One of the provisions of the law requires the appointment of an attorney to represent the person who is subject to the quarantine if the person does not already have an attorney. To facilitate expediency, the Office of Court Administration is gathering the names and contact information of attorneys who are willing or interested in serving as appointed counsel in these cases. If you are interested and willing to serve as appointed counsel, please fill out this form.

Stay Home Stay Safe Orders

Many Texas cities and counties have issued “stay home, stay safe” orders in response to the pandemic. The State Bar is collecting the orders here as a service to members and the public. It’s important to note that these orders generally provide exceptions for essential services, including the provision of legal services.

On March 31, Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order implementing statewide essential services protocols. The protocols direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. Read the order here. View the list of “essential services” as designated by the order here.

To provide guidance on the local orders, the Office of Court Administration (OCA) issued a Travel Authorization letter on March 26 for attorneys and staff under stay-at-home orders. It states that as the need for legal services increases during the pandemic, Texas lawyers should lead by example with telework, alternatives to in-person meetings, and social distancing, but that they also must be permitted to practice law during local stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on travel and business practices—as long as every effort is made to avoid risks to the public health. Read the letter here. The OCA released a similar travel authorization letter for judges, clerks, and their staff. Read that letter here.

Governor’s Executive Orders

Governor Greg Abbott has announced a series of Executive Orders relating to COVID-19 preparedness and mitigation. The orders limit public gatherings, mandate quarantines for travelers arriving from select other states, and address other matters.

On March 31, Abbott issued an executive order implementing statewide essential services protocols that will extend through April 30. The protocols direct all Texans to minimize non-essential gatherings and in-person contact with people who are not in the same household. Read the order here. View the list of “essential services” as designated by the order here.

Find the rest of the governor’s executive orders here

Free Lawyer Resources and Webinars

The State Bar is currently offering 5.5 hours of free CLE on the TexasBarCLE website, including two recent webcasts related to the coronavirus:

  • Practicing Law in the Shadow of COVID-19 — MCLE Credit: 1 hour. Accreditation for this course expires on February, 28, 2021. You must complete the course and report your hours prior to this date to receive credit. Go here to watch the course.

  • Benefits and Challenges of Invoking Force Majeure Clauses in the Age of the Coronavirus — MCLE Credit: 1 hour. Accreditation for this course expires on February, 28, 2021. You must complete the course and report your hours prior to this date to receive credit. Go here to watch the course.

  • For attorneys in financial need who require additional CLE, TexasBarCLE scholarships are available for online classes. Remember, in Texas it is permissible for lawyers to complete all 15 hours of required continuing legal education through online learning. There is no in-person CLE requirement.

  • April 2 live online event: GPSolo Roundtable — Coronavirus Issues for Small Firms and Their Clients – The Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division of the American Bar Association has opened this roundtable up to anyone who wishes to attend. No CLE credit will be provided. The event takes place at 1 p.m., April 2. To attend, register here.

  • April 3 live online event: The Texas Trial Lawyers Association is hosting a free, live information-sharing session on the SBA Loan Program in light of recent COVID-19 relief legislation. The event will be held at 11 a.m. CT, on April 3. Register here.

Zoom and Videoconferencing resources

Please go here for a list of resources related to Zoom, YouTube, and videoconferencing.

Relevant podcasts, Texas Bar Journal and bar blog articles

Estate Planning Execution

Bill Pargaman, a past chair of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, has prepared a preliminary guide to alternative methods of execution of estate planning documents under existing law, which our members may find helpful. The guide is posted under "COVID-19 Resources" on this page

Family Law Resources

  • As a free service to members, the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas is providing access to new emergency procedure forms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more and download them here.

  • The Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families has published this resource letter of best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Texas Bar Blog article: COVID-19 and family law: What every attorney needs to know, by Aimee Key and Lindsey Obenhaus

Well-being Resources

Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program professionals have created a web page full of resources to assist the many attorneys, law students, and families who may be isolated and struggling with a mental health issue or needing recovery support. Review the resources available at texasbar.com/tlaphelps/remote-well-being.

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program confidentially helps lawyers, judges, and law students who are concerned for themselves or a colleague with regard to general well-being, mental health, or substance use issues. TLAP provides support and referrals, peer assistance programs, and much more. TLAP can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 800-343-TLAP (8527) or texting TLAP to 555888. Additional resources are available at tlaphelps.org.

Law Practice Management Resources

  • State Bar of Texas Law Practice Management Program: Find CLE courses, publications, how-to guides, and other resources for running your practice.

  • Tech Bytes videos: The State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology worked with TexasBarCLE to create a series of short videos about technology-related topics, from legal ethics to cybersecurity.

Free Legal Resources for the Public

  • Texas Legal Services Center has created this web page of COVID-19 resources, including several documents on eviction and tenants rights, forced quarantines, unemployment benefits, and others. Additional information and forms are available through TexasLawHelp.org, which also has a live chat feature to assist low-income individuals with their legal questions.

  • TexasLegalAnswers.org is a free online legal advice website provided by the State Bar of Texas and Texas Legal Services Center that allows low-income Texans to post questions about their civil legal issues and receive answers from volunteer Texas attorneys.

  • If you need a lawyer, contact the State Bar’s Lawyer Referral & Information Service at 800-252-9690 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays.

  • If you can’t afford an attorney, please consult this Referral Directory for Low-Income Texans for legal service providers by county.

SBOT Response Measures

MCLE Deadlines Extended

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is making it difficult for some attorneys to complete their MCLE requirements on time. In response, the State Bar of Texas MCLE Department will grant an automatic 60-day extension to attorneys reaching their compliance deadlines in March, April, or May. Attorneys who missed compliance deadlines in January or February will receive an automatic 60-day extension to prevent the assessment of further fees. Attorneys now subject to suspension for failing to comply with MCLE requirements in November or December will have an additional one-month extension. Please contact the MCLE Department at 800-204-2222, ext. 1806, or mcle@texasbar.com if you have questions about the extensions or MCLE compliance requirements.

Adjustments to State Bar Operations 

The State Bar of Texas has taken the following steps out of our commitment to keep the health and safety of our members, employees, and the general public at the forefront of our actions in this rapidly changing situation: 

  • The April 7 State Bar budget public hearing and April 17 Board of Directors meeting will be held by videoconference pursuant toGov. Greg Abbott’s March 16 order temporarily suspending certain open meetings provisions. These will remain open meetings with public participation welcome. The public hearing agenda, with instructions on how to participate, is available here. The board meeting agenda will be posted closer to the meeting date.

  • In an effort to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus, State Bar employees are now working remotely, and State Bar offices are temporarily closed to visitors. We continue to provide essential services, but please bear with us if it takes us a little longer than usual to answer your calls or email messages.

  • All State Bar live events scheduled through at least May 10—including TexasBarCLE live courses—have been canceled, postponed, or changed to online meetings in an effort to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus. Registrants will be contacted directly about any postponed events.

  • State Bar live events and meetings scheduled for May 11 and beyond are still on the schedule at this time, but we are evaluating their status daily and will take additional steps as needed.

  • State Bar committees have been instructed to meet only by teleconference or videoconference.

  • State Bar sections are strongly encouraged to hold meetings remotely. We recommend that sections avoid air travel and out-of-state travel where possible, and that they consider canceling events where air travel or out-of-state or international travel are involved.

  • Enhanced disinfection of common areas in the Texas Law Center and regional offices continues to occur.

  • Non-essential business travel by State Bar staff is not allowed.

The State Bar’s leadership team is closely following developments related to the coronavirus, including government travel guidelines and health advisories, and will notify members of additional disruptions to State Bar services or events.

SBOT Event Cancellations and Delays

  • All State Bar of Texas live events scheduled through at least May 10—including TexasBarCLE live courses—have been canceled, postponed, or changed to online meetings in an effort to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus. Registrants will be contacted directly about any postponed events.

  • State Bar live events and meetings scheduled for May 11 and beyond are still on the schedule at this time, but we are evaluating their status daily and will take additional steps as needed.

The State Bar’s leadership team is closely following developments related to the coronavirus, including government travel guidelines and health advisories, and will notify members of additional disruptions to State Bar services or events.

Disciplinary System Cancellations and Delays

  • All investigatory hearings and evidentiary hearings scheduled through the end of April have been postponed in an effort to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus.

  • Parties to these proceedings, their counsel, witnesses, and panel members will be contacted directly about any postponed hearings.

  • Hearings scheduled for May and beyond are still on the schedule at this time. Their status will be evaluated as more information about the coronavirus becomes available in April. At that time, additional steps will be taken as needed.

  • Parties and their counsel with trial settings in March and beyond are encouraged to contact the CDC trial attorney handling their case to determine next steps.

SBOT Committees and Sections

  • State Bar committees have been instructed to meet only by teleconference or videoconference until further notice.

  • State Bar sections are strongly encouraged to hold meetings remotely. We recommend that sections avoid air travel and out-of-state travel where possible, and that they consider canceling events where air travel or out-of-state or international travel are involved.

State and federal health resources


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