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

2019 FEES AND COSTS CHEAT SHEET AND FAQ

Click here for Fees and Costs Cheat Sheet and FAQ

TJCTC has released its cheat sheet for the significant changes in Fees and Costs implemented by the Texas Legislature. Note that following discussions with OCA and others, we have clarified our position that the State Traffic Fine is treated as a fine and not a court cost. Also, there was a typo in some versions of the PowerPoint regarding the amount of costs on Rules of the Road parking/pedestrian offense.

Please review this information carefully, and discuss it with your court software provider, and other officials such as auditors and treasurers, as needed.

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.