A very common question from those I represent is "what's going to happen at our first court setting/appearance" for my case? While it's hard to answer this question without knowing the specifics of a case, generally speaking, most likely not a whole lot will occur. Unless there is some underlying exception, the Defendant will not have to "go before the judge", and/or will not have to plead "Guilty" or "Not Guilty" to the case. It is actually more like a routine line-up call by the court to ensure the Defendant intends to handle the case appropriately.
The first setting is generally known as an "Appearance" in most courts in Texas. While some courts may refer to a first setting in a different manner, what generally occurs is usually the same regardless. Our office will most likely have already filed a "letter of representation" with the District or County Clerk's Office. This puts us down as your "Attorney of Record" and informs the court you have selected counsel. If for some reason this has not been done, which is not altogether that uncommon, we will notify the court at the first setting that our office will be representing you, and that all future correspondence by any party involved, including (and especially) from anyone associated with the District Attorney's Office, will have to communicate through our office, as your legal counsel. In some situations, depending on the court, it may give us an opportunity to discuss the overall aspects of your case with the prosecutors assigned to the matter.
In other words, the first court appearance is part of the overall information gathering process. It's simply our first chance to begin gathering the discovery related to your case, which usually includes any police reports, videos, possible 911 witness calls, and/or anything else the State may have in their possession as evidence. In some counties, your appearance will not be required until there is a "dispositive" setting, which is either a "plea" or a "trial" setting.
In most cases, you will simply check in with the bailiff proving you haven't fled the country, and that you intend to handle the case and always show up for court when required. Some courts have a "docket call" where the judge (or a bailiff) may verball call out the list of names for those cases scheduled that day. If your appearance is required, we will try and get you in and out as quickly as possible. We realize our clients most likely have better things to do than wait around and sit in court, especially if an Attorney is going to be doing most of the work. We make it our goal, unless it has been set for a disposition (such as a "plea" or a "trial"), to get our clients in and out of the courthouse within an hour. Usually, your case will be reset, or passed, for about a month for either another appearance, a plea, or for a trial. It is common for people to think that the first court appearance is when the trial will occur. To be clear, there is never a trial on the first court appearance. It is just a part of the overall case process, and there is nothing to be afraid of, and absolutelu nothing to fear. To read more about the overall criminal case process in Texas, please read here.