Justice Court - Civil Procedures

Justice Court Civil Procedures

The information contained herein is FOR YOUR INFORMATION and is offered as a guide to all interested parties. THIS INFORMATION IS FOR PROCEDURE ONLY. IT IS NOT INTENDED FOR LEGAL ADVICE OR TO TAKE THE PLACE OF AN ATTORNEY. THIS OFFICE CANNOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. As always, we recommend that you consult an attorney.

Justice Court is a court in which parties can settle disputes in which a money judgment or other action is sought. Justice Court is a court that settles disputes over evictions, foreclosure of mortgages, deed restrictions, and others.

VENUE:
Suit should be filed in the county and precinct where one or more Defendant(s) reside. (Civil Practice and Remedies Code 15.082) If the suit is based on a contract or tort. the Defendant may also be sued in the county where the contract was entered into or to be performed, or where the tort occurred. If the suit is filed in this court and the Defendant filed a Motion to Transfer Venue (a request that the suit be transferred to another county or precinct), the Plaintiff will be liable for any additional filing fee if the suit is transferred.

JURISDICTION:
Jurisdiction (an issue over which the Court has authority) in Justice Court suits is for civil matters in which exclusive jurisdiction is not in the County or District Court and in which the amount in controversy is not more than $10,000.00, exclusive of interest. Justice Court also has jurisdiction over suits for foreclosure of mortgages and enforcement of liens on personal property where the amount in controversy is not more than $10,000.00, exclusive of interest. Justice Court also has jurisdiction over deed restriction cases with no limit on monetary amount.

FILING SUIT:
The responsibility for completing the petition rests with the Plaintiff. PLEADINGS MUST BE FILED IN DUPLICATE. The Court Clerks will assist with procedural questions. It is important that the Plaintiff understand that for a judgment to be valid, it is necessary to sue the Defendant in their legal capacity. They are as follows:

  • INDIVIDUAL
    A party personally responsible for damages.
  • SOLE PROPRIETOR OR PARTNERSHIP
    A business that is not incorporated but has filed an assumed name certificate with the County Clerk in the county of business that lists the owner(s). The County Clerk's office for Polk County is in Livingston. For more information, call the Polk County Clerk at 936-327-6804.
  • CORPORATION
    A business that is incorporated. To sue a corporation, the Plaintiff must find the name of the REGISTERED AGENT, PRESIDENT, OR VICE PRESIDENT of the corporation before filing the suit. The Secretary of State [(512) 463-5555] has that information. The Plaintiff will also need the ADDRESS of the REGISTERED AGENT, PRESIDENT, OR VICE PRESIDENT for service of citation. When the suit is filed, the Plaintiff will be filing against the corporation and serving the citation on one of the above mentioned officers of the corporation. It is also possible for an incorporated entity to have as assumed name, e.g. John's Auto Shop, Inc. dba John's Garage.













COSTS IN POLK COUNTY AND SERVICE FEE IF OUTSIDE POLK COUNTY:
The filing fee is $41.00. In addition, there is a fee for serving the Defendant, which is $75.00 per Defendant if served in Polk County. If the defendant is to be served outside of Polk County, Texas:

  1. Call the county courthouse in the county where the Defendant is to be served.
  2. Ask for the name of the Constable or Sheriff in the precinct where the Defendant is to be served; then call that office and find out the service fee for serving a Justice Court Citation.
  3. Get the address of the Constable or Sheriff who will be serving the citation.

CITATION:
Unless the Court is informed by the Plaintiff of the election of another entity for service, the Court will forward the citation to the Constable. Citations that will be served in a county other than Polk will be returned to Plaintiff, Plaintiff's agent, or attorney to forward to the appropriate agency for service.

ANSWER:
The Defendant(s) in the suit must file a written answer with the Court by the 14th day from the date the citation was served upon the Defendant(s). The Rules of Court govern a proper written answer.

REPRESENTATION:
An individual may represent themselves in a Justice Court suit, be represented by an authorized agent in an eviction case or, be represented by an attorney. A corporation or other entity may be represented by an employee, owner, officer or partner of the entity who is not an attorney, be represented by a property manager or other authorized agent in an eviction case or be represented by an attorney. The court may, for good cause, allow an individual representing himslef or herself to be assisted in court by a family member or other individual who is not being compensated.

PREPARING YOUR CASE FOR TRIAL:
The Plaintiff has the burden of proof and must meet that burden by showing thorough evidence that the Defendant is at fault. The Plaintiff should bring to trial all proof of damages and evidence necessary to substantiate the claim. It is the Plaintiff's or Defendant's responsibility to furnish copies of information to the Court and all parties involved. Witnesses to the suit, who will not come to court voluntarily, may be issued a subpoena to compel them to appear. Submit a request for a subpoena in writing at least one week prior to the trial date and pay the required fee for service. ($10.00 cash for witness fee and $75.00 for service in Polk County)

When the defendant cannot be properly served, the case remains in our file until the plaintiff provides an adequate address to accomplish service. If service cannot be accomplished, the case will be set on a Want of Prosecution Docket one year after the last attempted service.

SETTINGS AND NOTICE; POSTPONING TRIAL:

After the defendant answers, the case will be set on a trial docket at the discretion of the judge. The court must send a notice of the date, time, and place of this setting to all parties at their address of record no less than 45 days before the setting date, unless the judge determines that an earlier setting is required in the interest of justice. Reasonable notice of all subsequent settings must be sent to all parties at their addresses of record.

A party may file a motion requesting that the trial be postponed. The motion must state why a postponement is necessary. The judge, for good cause, may postpone any trial for a reasonable time.

AFTER JUDGMENT:
After judgment is entered, the losing party has 21 days to appeal the case to the County Court at Law in Polk County. Should the Court rule the Plaintiff recover nothing or should the Plaintiff receive a judgment for less than requested, the Plaintiff may appeal the case to the County Court within 21 days. If an appeal is not filed within 21 days from the date the judgment is signed, or if a Motion to Set Aside a Default Judgment or a Motion For New Trial is not filed within 5 days from the date the judgment is signed, the judgment becomes final.

THIS COURT DOES NOT COLLECT THE JUDGMENT FOR YOU:
Some remedies to collect a judgment are as follows:

1. ABSTRACT OF JUDGMENT:
The winning party may obtain an Abstract of Judgment after the judgment is final. The fee for obtaining an Abstract of Judgment is $5.00. The Abstract will be mailed to the party requesting it. The Abstract of Judgment may be filed with the County Clerk's office in the county where the losing party may have real property. After the Abstract of Judgment is filed with the County Clerk, if the losing party sells any real property within 10 years from the date of judgment, the amount of the judgment should be paid. The County Clerk may charge an additional fee for filing the Abstract of Judgment.

2. WRIT OF EXECUTION:
A Writ of Execution may be obtained any time after 30 days from the date of judgment. A Writ of Execution allows a Constable or Sheriff to seize non-exempt property from the losing party. If property is seized, an auction is held and the proceeds from the sale are credited toward your judgment. The cost for obtaining a Writ of Execution in Polk County is $80.00.

There may be other remedies available, which are not covered here. PLEASE CONSULT AN ATTORNEY FOR ANY OTHER REMEDIES TO COLLECT A JUDGMENT. SHOULD THE LOSING PARTY PAY THE AMOUNT OWED IT IS NECESSARY TO NOTIFY THE COURT IN WRITING. ADDRESS CHANGES SHOULD BE REPORTED TO THE COURT.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

ALTERNATE SERVICE:
The Defendant in a Justice Court suit should be served personally by the Constable or Sheriff of the county. Sometimes, service is avoided by the Defendant and an alternate method of service is necessary. The Constable, Sheriff, or process serving entity may file an affidavit with the Court stating that service upon the Defendant has not been obtained for various reasons. The Plaintiff may make a motion to the Court that the Defendant be served by alternate service after the Court receives the officer's affidavit. The alternate service may be as provided by statute(s). The Plaintiff will be notified to come to the Court to sign the motion for alternate service. If this is approved, the Judge will sign the order and the citation is returned to the process serving entity.

APPLICABLE STATUTES GOVERNING JUSTICE COURT INCLUDE BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO CHAPTER 27 OF THE GOVERNMENT CODE, RULES OF COURT, CIVIL PRACTICE AND REMEDIES CODE AND PROPERTY CODE.