Monday, June 25, 2007

10 Tips When Visiting the Courthouse

For some, the nearest that they get to the Bexar County Courthouse is driving past it after they've taken a wrong turn getting to Market Square or San Fernando Cathedral. There will be a time for most County residents, however, when they'll need to come to the Courthouse: marriage licenses; deed records; probate files; and jury duty are all reasons to visit.

Here's some helpful tips for Courthouse visitors:

1. Parking
Parking can be troublesome and expensive. The lots closest to the Courthouse (and the Justice Center next door) cost more than those farther away. They fill up quickly, too. Expect to pay as much as $12 for parking.

If you are willing to walk, try the lots near Durango and save yourself a couple of bucks. Park and Ride is a great option: you'll be dropped right by the Courthouse steps.

2. Timing Your Visit
If you don't have to be here in the morning, then plan your visit for the afternoon. Dockets are called in the morning: hearings are begun in the various courtrooms and documents are filed with the various clerks' offices. By the afternoon, a lot of this business has concluded. You'll face better parking and less lines if you visit in the afternoon.

You'll fare even better in the latter part of the week. Trials begin on Monday. By that Thursday or Friday, some of those matters will have resolved themselves.

Always sidestep entering via the south entrance of the Courthouse on the first Tuesday of the month because the steps are crowded with folk involved with the foreclosure auctions. It's packed. Try the basement entrance, or the northside doors facing Main Plaza.

3. Avoiding the Stairs
If you want to enter the Courthouse without taking the stairs, you can. Go to the southwest corner of the Courthouse grounds, and follow the ramps down into the basement parking area and Courthouse entrance. Ask a guard at the door for directions to your particular destination.

4. Mailing a Letter
Three elevators make up the main elevator bank, located in the central corridor of each floor except the fifth. Next to the bank is an ornate metal mailbox, built into the wall. It's very old. It still works.

5. Grabbing a Meal or Snack
Go to the basement. Take the tunnel, just south of the elevators, to the Justice Center. There will be an entrance on your right to a small cafeteria, where you can grab a snack or have a hot meal. They've got vending machines, too.

6. Grab a Smoke
There is a smoking area across from the cafeteria (see above).

7. Find A Notary Public
If you need the services of a notary public, then you can find one via the Information Center. The notaries are independent from Bexar County; however, one should be available at the Courthouse during normal business hours to help you.

8. Asking Questions
An Information Center is located on the first floor. Call for questions at (210) 335-2011.

9. Online Map with Directions
At GoogleMaps, you can find a map with driving directions to the Courthouse. There may be street closures due to construction -- like the Main Plaza Redevelopment Project -- so be prepared for detours and alternate routes.

10. Call First!
Most callers to Bexar County Information (335-2011) ask for information regarding a pending case. These people can avoid a trip to the courthouse by having the case number in hand, and calling (210) 335-2231 for civil cases and (210) 335-2238 for criminal matters. (For criminal cases, the SID number is helpful, too.)

Additionally, frequently requested documents can be requested online or by mail. These include birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce records. For more information (including fees) check out the City of San Antonio FAQ site which also provides information on how to gather documents from other locations (including the Metropolitan Health District and the Texas Department of Public Safety).

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