Justice Court - Frequently Asked Questions

The Role of Justices of the Peace

Justices of the Peace serve both as Judges and Magistrates. As Judges, they preside over justice criminal court, justice civil court, and small claims court. Criminal cases include but are not limited to traffic cases, school attendance cases, minor alcohol violation cases, and minor tobacco violation cases. Law enforcement agencies, including but not limited to the Polk County Sheriff's Department. Department of Public Safety, Parks & Wildlife, Health Department, and Alcohol & Beverage Commission, file complaints in justice criminal court. Civil cases include but are not limited to evictions and other suits with amount in controversy up to $10000. Every party to a civil suit has the right to request a jury proceeding.

As magistrates, Justices of the Peace issue warrants, conduct criminal examining trials, admonish prisoners, and set bonds. They also conduct juvenile detention hearings and admonish juveniles for statements. Additionally, Justices of the Peace perform marriage ceremonies and perform coroner duties on deaths that occur when not attended by a physician.

While defendants may represent themselves in a case before the justice court, defendants should consider seeking legal counsel before filing a plea. It is the duty of this office to help you in any way possible, but the Rules of Judicial Ethics prohibit this office:

  • From giving legal advice
  • Telling either party how to present their case
  • Expressing opinions of law.

The Judge and Court Clerks can answer questions:

  • Only of a general nature
  • About procedures of the Court
  • Concerning Court costs

The Judge and Clerks must remain impartial, and cannot hear any part of a case, or discuss the merits of any case, unless all parties are present.

General Court Questions

What precinct am I in? Which office do I contact?

If you've received a citation, look at the bottom for the office to contact. If you received notice of a lawsuit, the petition tells you which office to contact.

What precinct am I in?

To determine your precinct number, please see your Voter Registration card or call the Polk County Elections Department at (936) 327-6801. To determine the precinct of a person you are trying to file suit against, find their address and call the Polk County Elections Department at (936) 327-6801.

How do I get to the court? What is your phone number?

Please see the Justice of the Peace home page.

How can I pay a fine?

The Court accepts cash, credit card, cashier's check and/or money order for payment of fines. Cash should not be mailed. See the page of the JP court in your precinct for additional payment information.

Justice Criminal Court Questions

After I get a traffic ticket, how long should I wait to pay it?

If you come to the JP office before the date shown on your citation, it is possible the that the officer who gave you the citation has not yet filed it with the court. Please allow 10 days for the court to receive the citation. You may call to check or mail any correspondence.

Is a phone call equal to an appearance? Can I make arrangements by phone?

No. You must either come to the JP office in person or, enter your plea to the court by mail or, pay your fine by mail, by the due date on the ticket.

Can I get an extension on the date to appear in court?

Yes, but you must come to the court to sign the form requesting an extension.

What happens if I miss an appearance date?

Appear as soon as possible otherwise a warrant may be issued for your arrest on added charges.

Small Claims or Justice Civil Court Questions

How do I file a Small Claims (or Justice Civil) suit?

It is suggested that a notice of intent to file suit be mailed to the person to be filed against by certified mail prior to the filing. The court has an Original Petition to be filled out and filed with the court. The fees for filing and service are to be paid at the time of filing. You must have the correct name and physical address of the person you are filing against so that they can be served with the citation. After the citation has been served, the defendant has 14 days after service to answer the law suit. If there is no answer, a default hearing is set and the person filing is notified to appear and present their case. If there is an answer, a court date is set and both parties are notified to appear and present their cases. Neither the court clerk nor the judge can give legal advice. see Rule 503.3 - SETTINGS AND NOTICE.

If the address for service is located outside Polk County, please provide the court with the name and the address of the proper office to provide service. In this case, payment for the service will be made payable to that office (we cannot accept cash for this fee), and only the filing fee of $41.00 will be due to the court.

How do I evict someone?

  1. Contact the court for any procedural handout available and filing forms.
  2. Follow the legal requirements set out in the Texas Property Code, Texas Rules of Court, Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code, or other applicable laws.
  3. The property must be located in Polk County and in the precinct where the case is filed.
  4. A suit for rent owed can be included in the eviction suit up to the $10,000.00 jurisdictional limit of the Justice Court. Only past due rent amounts may be awarded, although attorney fees may be awarded if allowed by contract. Damages and late fees can not be awarded in an eviction suit.
  5. The court date is set the day you file the eviction suit .
  6. If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, the tenant has five days to appeal or move before a Writ of Possession can be issued.

How do I know where to file a suit?

Generally, defendant must be served in precinct in which they live. There are special rules allowing exceptions in the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code, Texas Property Code, and the Texas Rule of Court.

Once filed, when will case come to trial?

At least 45 days after date defendant has answered. The court will contact you about a court date.

What must plaintiff bring to Court?

It is the responsibility of the plaintiff to prove the case by The Preponderance of Evidence (The evidence that carries the most weight). Bring any documents or witnesses you believe are necessary to prove your case. Court is not responsible for copying your documents. Please provide a copy for the court and the other parties in the suit at the time of trial.

What is the judge's role during the trial?

The judge is an important person responsible for listening to facts, reviewing evidence, and making a decision based on law. The judge does not present your case for the plaintiff or the defendant. You must be prepared to present your side of the case.

Where do I get forms for filing civil suits?

The court can furnish sample petition forms for various types of civil suits. These forms can be mailed out. These are sample forms only and not intended to cover every type of case. You may use them if you choose, but the court does not bear responsibility for any deficiencies.

What happens if I file a suit and the defendant does not answer?

Court will notify you when the defendant(s) have been served. If the defendant does not answer within the time allowed by law, you may contact the court and request placement of your case on the earliest default docket.