Law & the Media in Texas — Civil Courts

The Civil Process

Covering Civil Courts

Covering the civil activities at the courthouse can be difficult and demanding. The civil process encompasses a great many legal actions and reporters must have wide knowledge to be effective.

In criminal procedure a reporter with experience has probably encountered a particular situation previously. But in civil court, stories do not repeat themselves as often.

Civil disputes and trials reveal information about people, their interactions and their financial and contractual relationships.

On the surface covering civil procedure appears to be drab and uninteresting. The routine involved can be burdensome. Much of the reporting involves checking petitions, pleadings, wills and searching records of one kind or another. Trials may stretch into weeks or months. Cases may be pending for years. The points at issue may be difficult to understand and to communicate.

Reporting this type of news requires a special talent for detail and an interest in the law. The courthouses of the state carry on a huge volume of business and reporters have to know what to look for. The routine may be followed day after day without turning up a story. That takes patience.

Reporters may not have the time to sit through long and involved trials. Therefore, they have to cover them in bits and pieces and not neglect the routine, such as checking to see what else has been going on while the trial is in progress.