Jurisdictional Limit Increase Now in Effect

As we move into fall, many courts (and TJCTC) have been consumed with the COVID-19 pandemic and the ever-changing landscape that justice courts currently face. However, we wanted to remind you that in addition, the jurisdictional limit increase to $20,000 went into effect on September 1, 2020. Below are some answers to common questions that we have received over the last few weeks regarding the jurisdictional limit increase.

Can a plaintiff amend their petition that was filed prior to September 1 to increase their claim to more than $10,000 on or after September 1?

While a plaintiff generally has a right to amend their petition, and the court now has jurisdiction over a claim for damages that does not exceed $20,000, there are factors that must be considered when determining what happens when a plaintiff who filed a case before Sept. 1 now wants to amend a petition to seek more than $10,000 in damages.

The only time this could create a jurisdictional issue is if the damages are liquidated (definite and clearly ascertainable by reference to a written document), and the plaintiff had improperly filed a suit over which the court did not have jurisdiction prior to September 1. In that case, since the court did not have jurisdiction over the case when it was filed, technically the court would have to dismiss the case, but because the court does have jurisdiction now the plaintiff could re-file for the higher amount.

If, instead, the damages in the case are unliquidated (that is, they are not definite and clearly ascertainable by reference to a written document), then there should not be any issue with the plaintiff now seeking the higher amount. This is because there is no prohibition on reducing an unliquidated claim to “manufacture jurisdiction” in justice court. Of course, they will still have to prove their damages at trial.

Even in a case seeking liquidated damages, if the amendment is due to an increase in damages under the “mere passage of time” rule, the plaintiff may also amend to an amount that is more than the jurisdictional limit. See page 8 of the Civil Deskbook.

We do not believe that just because the plaintiff amends the petition to allege a higher amount the court must conduct a special inquiry over whether it had jurisdiction before September 1. However, if it comes to the court’s attention that it clearly did not have jurisdiction before Sept. 1, then the court would have to dismiss subject to the plaintiff’s right to refile the case now that the court’s jurisdiction has increased.

For more information on liquidated v. unliquidated damages, which types of damages count against the jurisdictional limit, and how to determine if a case is within justice court jurisdiction please see pages 8 – 10 of the Civil Deskbook.

Is the jurisdictional limit for a Repair and Remedy Case still $10,000?

Yes. The Legislature did not amend Property Code 92.0563(e), which says: “A justice court may not award a judgment under this section . . . that exceeds $10,000, excluding interest and costs of court.” However, the Supreme Court did change Rule 509.2(a)(8) to say $20,000.

We think this was an oversight on the Court’s part because the Legislature had increased the jurisdictional amount in all other civil justice court cases, and believe that the Court will likely amend the rule to match Property Code 92.0563(e) at some point in the near future.

Also, it seems likely that the Legislature will address this in the 2021 session, making the jurisdictional cap in these cases $20,000 as well. Stay tuned!

Check out TJCTC’s Online Learning Resources for webinars, recordings for credit, and other resources related to the jurisdictional increase and civil cases!

The topics include: The $20,000 Question: Jurisdictional Increase in Justice Court; Tricky Issues: Civil Cases; CPR for Civil Knowledge: Understanding the CPRC; Fundamentals of Contracts; Torts-Crash Into Me; How Much Should the Judgment Be? Calculating Damages in Civil Cases, and more!

TJCTC’s DWI Bond Condition Program

TJCTC’s DWI Bond Condition Program is part of a statewide effort to reduce the incidence of DWI offenses in Texas counties by adopting a comprehensive plan for setting, monitoring, and enforcing bond conditions in DWI cases. The program is free for counties and promotes the use of bond conditions (such as ignition interlock devices) that reduce the incidence of DWI recidivism, increases consistency in setting bond conditions by a magistrate and a trial court, and ensures that bond conditions required by law are properly set, monitored, and enforced.

The program web page includes additional details, including a video about the program and a map that shows all of the counties that are currently expressing interest or participating in the Program. The web page also provides information on how to contacts us if you would like more information or are interested in signing up.

Visit the program web page today!

NHTSA Kicks Off Labor Day Impaired Driving High-Visibility Enforcement Campaign

At a virtual event on August 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) kicked off its Labor Day impaired driving high-visibility enforcement campaign, reminding Americans not to drive impaired.

See NHTSA’s press release for more information about the campaign.

 

The Faces of Drunk Driving

The Faces of Drunk Driving is part of a Texas Department of Transportation public education campaign that highlights “the extensive human toll that drinking and driving can have and provides personal accounts from victims, families and others whose lives have been shattered.”

To visit the Faces of Drunk Driving website, click here.

 

Impacts of the Pandemic on Impaired Driving

Click on the links below to read some interesting news articles about how the COVID-19 pandemic has (or has not) impacted the number of DWI arrests in various parts of the state.

Fewer DWI’s in El Paso During COVID-19 Pandemic

DWI Arrests During Pandemic Down 41%, Recent Data Shows

DWI Numbers Rising Quickly as Houston Reopens

DWI Arrests in Austin Doubled the First Weekend Bars Reopened in May, New Data Shows

Despite Pandemic, Drunk Driving Numbers Still Up in North Texas

Pandemic Has Not Stopped DWI Epidemic

 

Upcoming National Judicial College Webinar: Access to Justice in Impaired Driving Cases – Costs of Pre-Trial Conditions

The National Judicial College (NJC) will be presenting the following webinar in August:

Title: Access to Justice in Impaired Driving Cases – Costs of Pre-Trial Conditions

Date & Time: Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at 11 a.m. CDT

Course Description: This NJC webcast, funded by NHTSA, will focus on the delicate balancing act of imposing pre-trial conditions on impaired drivers in traffic courts and the obstacles they often face in complying. This course will explore innovative and creative approaches to these cases while in the pre-trial stage and ways to avoid often crippling legal financial obligations and cost prohibitive conditions before final adjudication. This course will also address some of the practical challenges presented in imposing some conditions.

If you are interested in attending the webinar, you can register here.

Research Being Done on Tests to Detect Marijuana-Impaired Driving

Impaired Driving is not only caused by alcohol, but by any substance use that results in impairment. But effectively testing for impairment caused by substances other than alcohol can be difficult. Click on the link below to read an article about marijuana-impaired driving and the research that is currently being done to develop an effective test for it.

This Cannabis Saliva Test Could One Day Be Used To Detect Impaired Driving

TJCTC’s DWI Bond Condition Program

TJCTC’s DWI Bond Condition Program is a part of a statewide effort to reduce the incidence of DWI offenses in Texas counties in adopting a comprehensive plan for setting, monitoring, and enforcing bond conditions in DWI cases. The program is free for counties and promotes the use of bond conditions (such as ignition interlock devices) that reduce the incidence of DWI recidivism, increases consistency in setting bond conditions by a magistrate and a trial court, and ensures that bond conditions required by law are properly set, monitored, and enforced.

The program web page includes additional details, including a video about the program, and tells you how to contacts us if you would like more information or are interested in signing up. We have also recently updated the web page with a new map that shows all of the counties that are currently expressing interest or participating in the Program.

Please click here to visit the web page!