What is Presiding Court?
Bexar County civil courts operate with what we call a presiding court system. What does that mean for you?
On the day your hearing is set, you and your attorney will appear in the Presiding Courtroom. All of the cases set for that day will be called by the Presiding Judge. There are two dockets we will address here – the 8:30 and the 9:00. The 8:30 docket is (largely) for matters where no testimony is needed and/or where everyone is in agreement. You may or may not be asked to appear for this hearing and, as of this date, these hearings can all happen over Zoom.
The 9:00 docket is where you are probably sitting wondering what is going on here. As the judge calls each case, the attorney or litigant will stand up and make an “announcement”. They may be on Zoom or in person depending on the case. There are several possible announcements. They include:
Conferring – this means your attorney is going to talk to the other attorney (or litigant) and try to reach some kind of agreement. This happens a lot. Sometimes it results in you needing less time in front of the court. Sometimes it results in all your issues getting resolved without needing to go in front of a judge at all.
Not Ready – this means someone doesn’t want the hearing to happen today. There are lots of reasons for this announcement, but the end result is that a judge is going to hear why that party isn’t ready and decide if the hearing will go forward today or not.
Agreed Order to Come – this means everyone agreed and signed an Order. Your attorney will submit the Order to the Court and your day is done.
Agreed Reset – this means everyone has agreed to a new date for the hearing. The court will move the hearing date and your day (today) is done.
Time Announcement – One of the attorneys will tell the Presiding Judge how long they think they will need for your matter to be heard. A lot goes into this, and you should discuss with your attorney how they expect the hearing to go, how many witnesses will be called, and what kind of evidence may be presented. Generally, the shorter the time announcement, the faster you will get heard. But be careful – if your attorney tells the Court they only need an hour and they end up needing more than that, there is a risk the Judge will make you come back another day to finish up. If your attorney thinks your case will take an exceptionally long time to be heard, they may have gotten a special setting in a different court with a set date.
Now, you wait. If there are not a lot of cases, you have a short announcement, and there are lots of judges available, you may get assigned immediately. But if there is a long docket and you need a lot of time to present your case and many of the judges are out (or unavailable because they are hearing other matters), you could sit and wait all day. Your attorney should discuss this with you once they have some idea how long the wait may be. They may suggest you reset the hearing if it looks particularly dire.
Once the Presiding Judge gets to assign you out, they will tell you which Judge to go see. You will go to that courtroom (or log in virtually) and see the Judge who will hear your actual case. This Judge may have heard something previously in your case. Don’t assume they will remember you. They probably won’t. Further, you may never get assigned to this Judge again. The battle to be fought is over whatever issue has brought you to Court that day. Here is where your attorney’s skill comes in. Your attorney will have to bring this Judge up to speed on where your case is, quickly but thoroughly; they will have to narrow the focus to whatever the issue is that day for the Judge; and they will have to tailor their arguments and case presentation to the particular personality of the Judge you are sent to. Your attorney may have some advice for you in the elevator on the way up about the particular judge, so listen carefully.
The Bexar County Presiding system is unique and can be confusing. Trust in a local firm that practices exclusively in the area of family law and is well-versed in the twists and turns of our system. Your attorney should be able to pivot and tailor their presentation quickly if they spend any significant time practicing family law in Bexar County. We are used to adapting and adjusting on the fly. Call us at 210-201-4996 or fill out a Contact Us form to set up a consultation regarding your specific issues.