The Harris County court system is still adjusting to the “new normal” four months after Harvey. The storm wrecked the Criminal Justice Center and the jury assembly building. Jury trials resumed in October, but with many of the courtrooms still out of commission, County Court Manager Ed Wells says judges have to double up.
“So in a month’s time, each court has a week of availability basically,” says Wells, “whereas prior to the storm they had four weeks and sometimes five.”
That’s likely to be the case for a while. Robert Shaffer, an administrative and district judge for Harris County, estimates it will take a minimum of 12 months to repair the justice center, once the county signs up a contractor. “I hate to be the one to say this, but I really don’t anticipate the Criminal Justice Center being back at full function until sometime in 2019,” says Judge Schaffer.
And the downtown courthouses weren’t the only ones that flooded. “The Cypress Annex was hit really hard,” says Harris County Clerk Chris Daniel, “and so they too are operating out of temporary buildings and spaces.”
Daniel says at least one major courthouse on the west side also remains out of commission. That’s delaying not only criminal cases but also civil disputes and marriages.