Update on Eviction Default Judgment Case

Dear Judges:

This is an update of our post on The Docket on November 27, 2019 concerning the decision by the 68th District Court in Dallas County holding that default money judgments for back rent in an eviction case, where the citation was served by posting and mailing to the premises, are unconstitutional as a violation of due process.

The district court entered a final judgment in the case on December 20, 2019, which may be viewed here: Simmons v Jones.   An appeal filed by the Attorney General relating to jurisdictional issues is pending in the Fifth Court of Appeals.

The question you may have is whether you are legally required to follow the District Court’s decision and refuse to enter a default judgment for back rent in an eviction case where the citation was served by alternative service by posting and mailing. We believe the answer to this question is no. The 68th District Court’s decision is only binding with respect to the single plaintiff in that case and the court did not enter any injunctive relief directed to any justice court. We therefore believe you should continue to follow the existing law and procedure with respect to alternative service by posting and mailing as set forth in Rule 510.4(c) and Property Code § 24.0051(a).

We will continue to monitor these issues and keep you informed of any further developments.

Very truly yours,

TJCTC

Recent Letter Regarding Court Decision in Eviction Default Judgments

Dear Judges:

You may have received a letter from Austin attorney Russell Sloan concerning a recent decision by the 68th District Court in Dallas County holding that default money judgments (for back rent) in an eviction case following alternative service by posting and mailing the citation are unconstitutional as a violation of due process. Click here to read the letter.

A final order has not yet been entered in this case. We do not expect that to happen until approximately December 17, 2019. Once a final order is entered we would expect the district court’s decision to be appealed to the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas. Currently, we do not believe this decision, upon entry of a final order, is legally binding on any justice courts other than potentially Precinct 4, Place 1, Dallas County.

We therefore do not believe you are legally required, at this point, to follow this decision and refuse to enter a default judgment for back rent in an eviction case where the citation was served by alternative service by posting and mailing under Rule 510.4(c) and Property Code § 24.0051(a).

We intend to closely monitor this case and any appeal and will keep you informed of any developments.

Very truly yours,
TJCTC

Spotlight: Chief Deputy Clerk Ashly Vicuna from Del Rio

Ashly Vicuna
Chief Deputy Clerk – Val Verde County, Pct. 3

Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born and raised in Del Rio, Tx. I graduated from Del Rio High School in 2007. I started working for Val Verde County in 2013. I married in October of 2015 and had my first and only child in October of 2016. I love to play softball on the weekends and spend time with my family. As of July 2019, I have become the Chief Deputy for our office and am grateful for the opportunity.

What made you decide to become a clerk?
In 2013, while I was in search of a job, I was told there was a position open with the Justice of the Peace office. I applied and thankfully got the job. I have been in the same office and judge ever since.

What is something innovative, interesting or fun your office does?
Our office is like a close family, so we get together for our birthdays and celebrate together. We have monthly celebrations with the other JP offices as well. The JP offices here have all become close with each other and we are always there to help one another.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the people I work with. No matter what is put on our plate, we always work together and get the job done.

TEXAS COURT OF APPEALS HOLDS TIME PAYMENT FEE UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Texas Court of Appeals Holds Time Payment Fee Unconstitutional

In a decision filed on February 5, 2019, the Texas Court of Appeals for the 14th Judicial District held that the time payment fee allocated to the general revenue fund (90% of the $25 collected) is facially unconstitutional.  The court held that the portion of the fee that goes to the county (10% of the $25 collected) is valid. Since this case was transferred from the 3rd Court of Appeals to the 14th Court of Appeals, all counties in the 3rd and 14th Judicial Districts would fall under the authority of this opinion. We recommend that judges in those counties immediately meet with county officials, including your county attorney and county auditor, to discuss this opinion before assessing or collecting the full time payment fee in any case.

Those counties are: Harris, Bastrop, Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Coke, Comal, Concho, Fayette, Hays, Irion, Lampasas, Lee, Llano, McCulloch, Milam, Mills, Runnels, San Saba, Schleicher, Sterling, Tom Green, Travis, and Williamson.

A motion for rehearing has been filed, and the state could appeal the decision to the Court of Criminal Appeals and, if so, any CCA ruling would be binding statewide. Additionally, the Legislature may decide to address the time payment fee this session. Stay tuned to the situation, and be sure to attend a TJCTC Legislative Update seminar for the latest information.

Read the opinion here.