As expected, Harris County courts resumed jury service on Oct. 16, more than a month after Hurricane Harvey closed several downtown buildings.
However, court activities are still being housed in temporary facilities. Prospective jurors reported to makeshift jury assembly room in the basement of the county administration building, at 1001 Preston, and had to move to courts’ temporary locations around four different courthouses, the Houston Chronicle reports.
Portable bathrooms were set up behind 1001 Preston so jurors could find them easily, Houston Public Media reports.
The building wasn’t designed for 300 people to be sitting in the basement cafeteria for more than two hours, Harris County District Clerk Chris Daniel told the Houston Press.
“Obviously the bathrooms throughout the building are not closed to the jurors or the public, but it would be too difficult to have that many people going up and down the stairs or up and down the elevators searching for bathrooms,” Daniel told the Press.
In both misdemeanor and felony courts, trials are being prioritized for those who are in jail and haven’t been able to bail out, the Press reports. New grand jury panels will be selected this week, with felony jury trials resuming on Oct. 23 after grand juries are figured out, State District Judge Susan Brown told the Press.
In late August, Harvey flooded the Harris County Criminal Justice Center and the underground Jury Assembly Building. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett is looking at completely replacing the jury building with a structure that’s not underground. Completed six years ago, the $13 million building is underneath a park at 1201 Congress Ave. The small above-ground portion was built above the historic high-water mark from Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
The $95 million Harris County Criminal Justice Center opened in 2000 but closed for about a year after Allison struck in June 2001. The 20-story building, at 1201 Franklin St., is expected to be closed for the better part of a year this time, as well. As such, 16 county courts have temporarily relocated to the Family Law Center at 1115 Congress Ave.