Law:Title 2. Judicial Branch. Subtitle A. Courts from Chapter 27. Justice Courts (Texas)

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Subtitle A. Courts

Contents

Chapter 27. Justice Courts

Subchapter A. General Provisions

Section  27.001.  Bond.

Each justice of the peace must give a bond payable to the county judge, in an amount of not more than $5,000, and conditioned that the justice will:

(1)  faithfully and impartially discharge the duties required by law; and

(2)  promptly pay to the entitled party all money that comes into the justice's hands during the term of office.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.



Section  27.002.  Commission; Notary.

Each justice of the peace shall be commissioned as justice of the peace of the applicable precinct and ex officio notary public of the county.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.



Section  27.003.  Effect Of Precinct Boundary Changes.

A person who has served as justice of the peace of a precinct for 10 or more consecutive years preceding a change in boundaries of the precinct is not ineligible for reelection in the precinct because of residence outside the precinct as long as the justice's residence is within the boundaries of the precinct as they existed before the change.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.



Section 27.004.  Records And Other Property.

(a) Each justice shall arrange and safely keep all dockets, books, and papers transmitted to the justice by the justice's predecessors in office, and all papers filed in a case in justice court, subject to the public access requirements prescribed by Rule 12, Rules of Judicial Administration.

(a-1)  If a person vacates the office of justice of the peace, the person shall transfer all court records, documents, property, and unfinished business to the person's successor on the date the successor takes office.  After the transfer, the business of the office must be completed as if the successor had begun the business.

(b)  A person who has possession of dockets, books, or papers belonging to the office of any justice of the peace shall deliver them to the justice on demand.  If the person refuses to deliver them, on a motion supported by an affidavit, the person may be attached and imprisoned by the order of the county judge until the person makes delivery.  The county judge may issue the order in termtime or vacation.   The person against whom the motion is made must be given three days' notice of the motion before the person may be attached.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.

Amended by:

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 711, Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2005.



Section  27.005.  Educational Requirements.

(a) For purposes of removal under Chapter 87, Local Government Code, "incompetency" in the case of a justice of the peace includes the failure of the justice to successfully complete:

(1)  within one year after the date the justice is first elected, an 80-hour course in the performance of the justice's duties; and

(2)  each following year, a 20-hour course.

(b)  The courses may be completed in an accredited state-supported school of higher education.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 802, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1989; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 147, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.



Section  27.006.  Collecting Debt For Another; Offense.

(a) A justice commits an offense if the justice:

(1)  accepts for collection or undertakes the collection of a claim for a debt for another, unless the justice acts under a law that prescribes the duties of the justice; or

(2)  accepts compensation not prescribed by law for accepting for collection or undertaking the collection of a claim for debt for another.

(b)  An offense under Subsection (a) is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $200 or more than $500.

(c)  In addition to the fine, the justice may be removed from office.

(d)  This section does not prohibit a justice who is authorized by law to act for others in the collection of debts from undertaking to collect a debt for another if the amount of the debt is beyond the jurisdiction of the justice court.

Added by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 268, Sec. 9, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.



Subchapter B. Jurisdiction And Powers

Section  27.031.  Jurisdiction.

(a) In addition to the jurisdiction and powers provided by the constitution and other law, the justice court has original jurisdiction of:

(1)  civil matters in which exclusive jurisdiction is not in the district or county court and in which the amount in controversy is not more than $10,000, exclusive of interest;

(2)  cases of forcible entry and detainer;

(3)  foreclosure of mortgages and enforcement of liens on personal property in cases in which the amount in controversy is otherwise within the justice court's jurisdiction; and

(4)  cases arising under Chapter 707, Transportation Code, outside a municipality's territorial limits.

(b)  A justice court does not have jurisdiction of:

(1)  a suit in behalf of the state to recover a penalty, forfeiture, or escheat;

(2)  a suit for divorce;

(3)  a suit to recover damages for slander or defamation of character;

(4)  a suit for trial of title to land; or

(5)  a suit for the enforcement of a lien on land.

(c)  A justice court has concurrent jurisdiction with a municipal court in cases that arise in the municipality's extraterritorial jurisdiction and that arise under an ordinance of the municipality applicable to the extraterritorial jurisdiction under Section 216.902, Local Government Code.

(d)  A corporation need not be represented by an attorney in justice court.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985. Amended by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 745, Sec. 2, eff. June 20, 1987; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 776, Sec. 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1991.

Amended by:

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 383, Sec. 2, eff. September 1, 2007.

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 612, Sec. 12, eff. September 1, 2007.

Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1149, Sec. 2, eff. September 1, 2007.

Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 87, Sec. 27.001(18), eff. September 1, 2009.



Section  27.032.  Extraordinary Remedies.

A justice of the peace may issue writs of attachment, garnishment, and sequestration within the justice's jurisdiction in the same manner as judges and clerks of the district and county courts.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.



Section  27.033.  Other Powers.

A justice of the peace may:

(1)  exercise jurisdiction over other matters cognizable before a justice of the peace under any law of this state; and

(2)  proceed with all unfinished business of the office as if the business had been originally begun before that justice.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.



Section  27.034.  Deed Restriction Jurisdiction.

(a) A justice court has jurisdiction of suits relating to enforcement of a deed restriction of a residential subdivision that does not concern a structural change to a dwelling.

(b)  The petitioner in a dispute concerning a deed restriction shall present as evidence at the first hearing in the dispute:

(1)  a certified copy of the deed or other document that establishes the restriction on the property; and

(2)  other documents necessary to demonstrate that the restriction applies to the property in dispute.

(c)  In a dispute concerning a deed restriction, a justice of the peace may order any alternative method of dispute resolution provided by Title 7, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

(d)  The jurisdiction provided by this section is concurrent with the jurisdiction of the district court.

(e)  A justice court has jurisdiction of suits under this section regardless of the amount in controversy.

(f)  In a dispute concerning a deed restriction, a justice of the peace may consolidate disputes relating to the same issues and parties.

(g)  An appeal under this section is by trial de novo.

(h)  In this section, "deed restriction" means one or more restrictive covenants contained or incorporated by reference in a properly recorded deed, map, plat, replat, declaration, or other instrument filed in the real property records, map records, or deed records of the county in which the property is located.

(i)  In this section, a "dwelling" does not include an external structure such as a carport, fence, storage building, or unattached garage.

(j)  Nothing in this section authorizes a justice of the peace to grant a writ of injunction.

Added by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 1022, Sec. 1, eff. June 17, 1995. Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 136, Sec. 1, eff. May 19, 1997; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 672, Sec. 1, eff. June 18, 1999.



Subchapter C. Conducting Court

Section  27.051.  Terms Of Court; Place For Holding Court.

(a) Each justice shall hold a term of court for civil business once each month and may transact such business out of termtime as is authorized by law.

(b)  Each justice shall hold the regular term of court at the justice's office at times prescribed by the commissioners court. The commissioners court shall set the time and place for holding justice court.

(c)  A justice may hold court from day to day until all business is disposed of or may adjourn the court or trial of a case to a particular day.

(d)  If the regular term does not begin on the day set by law, the court is considered adjourned until its next regular term.

(e)  If the justice precinct in which the courthouse is located has more than 75,000 inhabitants, the commissioners court shall provide and furnish a suitable place in the courthouse for the justice of that precinct to hold court.

(f)  A justice of the peace of a precinct in a county with a population of less than 30,000 may hold court in the county courthouse or another facility provided under Section 292.002(a), Local Government Code, for that purpose. If requested by the justice, the commissioners court of the county may provide and furnish a suitable place in the courthouse or another facility provided under Section 292.002(a), Local Government Code, for the justice to hold court.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 1223, Sec. 1, eff. June 16, 1989; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 825, Sec. 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.



Section  27.052.  Vacancy Or Absence.

If the office of justice of the peace is vacant in a precinct or if the justice is absent or unable or unwilling to perform his duties, the nearest justice in the county may temporarily perform the duties of the office.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.



Section 27.054.  Exchange Of Benches.

(a) A justice of the peace may hold court for any other justice in any county at the request of that justice.

(b)  The justices of any county may exchange benches for a period not to exceed five days if they consider it expedient.

(c)  A justice who exchanges benches with another justice is not entitled to receive compensation from the commissioners court of the county in which the regular justice serves.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.

Amended by:

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1164, Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2005.



Section  27.055.  Special And Temporary Justices.

(a) If a justice of the peace is disqualified from a civil case, is sick, or is absent from the precinct, the parties may agree on a person to try the case. If the parties fail to agree at the first term of the court after service is perfected, the county judge shall, on application of the justice or either party, appoint a qualified person to try the case. The disqualification, absence, or illness of the justice and the selection by agreement or appointment of another person to try the case shall be noted on the docket of the justice.

(b)  If a justice is temporarily unable to perform official duties because of absence, recusal, illness, injury, or other disability, the county judge may appoint a qualified person to serve as temporary justice for the duration of the disability. The commissioners court shall compensate the temporary justice by the day, week, or month in an amount equal to the compensation of the regular justice. A temporary justice has all the rights and powers of the justice of the peace while serving in that capacity but may not make personnel decisions about, or significant changes in, the justice of the peace's office.

(c)  In Subsections (b) and (f), "qualified person" means a person who has served as a justice of the peace for not less than 4 1/2 years and who has not been convicted of a criminal offense that involves moral turpitude.

(d)  A person appointed under Subsection (b) or (f) may reside in a county other than the county in which the person is appointed as a temporary justice of the peace.

(e)  The county judge may appoint any qualified voter under Section 11.002, Election Code, to serve as a temporary justice of the peace if the judge cannot find a qualified person who agrees to serve under Subsection (b) or (f).

(f)  In a county that has a population of more than 800,000 and that has not more than five justices of the peace, the county judge may appoint a qualified person to serve as a temporary justice of the peace to hold court when necessary to dispose of accumulated business in the precinct.  The county judge may designate the local administrative statutory county court judge to act on behalf of the county judge in making the appointment under this subsection.

Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985. Amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 716, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.

Amended by:

Acts 2005, 79th Leg., Ch. 1326, Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2005.



Section  27.056.  Clerk.

(a) Each justice of the peace may designate one or more persons to serve as clerk of the justice court.

(b)  The clerk may administer oaths and affidavits and make certificates and affix the court's seal to those certificates.

(c)  The clerk shall:

(1)  maintain central docket records for all cases filed in the justice court;

(2)  maintain an index of all court judgments for cases arising in the justice court; and

(3)  perform the other duties required by law and assist the judge in handling matters before the court.

Added by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 802, Sec. 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1989. Amended by Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 96, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.



Section  27.057.  Citation.

A clerk of a justice court may issue citation in the manner provided for justices of the peace by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

Added by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 802, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1989.



Section  27.058.  Civil Docket.

Information in the civil docket of a justice of the peace may be processed and stored by the use of electronic data processing equipment, at the discretion of the justice.

Added by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 776, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 1991.



Section  27.059.  Justice Of The Peace Seal.

(a) The commissioners court shall furnish to each justice of the peace a seal that has a star with five points in the center. The seal must also have "Justice Court, __________ County, Texas" and any applicable precinct number on it.

(b)  The seal may be attached to all process other than subpoenas issued out of the justice court and may be used to authenticate the official acts of the justice clerk and the justice of the peace.

(c)  The seal may be affixed by a seal press or stamp that embosses or prints the seal.

Added by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 747, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1991. Renumbered from Sec. 27.058 by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., 1st C.S., ch. 14, Sec. 8.01(12), eff. Nov. 12, 1991.


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