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!

Family Violence Reporting

Many of you probably remember hearing about the new (to justice court) requirement to report class c assault family violence cases to DPS at TJCTC’s Legislative Updates last summer.

For any offense committed on or after September 1, 2019, the court must report information regarding a person’s citation or arrest for class c assault family violence to DPS within 30 days of the disposition of the case. Code of Criminal Procedure 66.252.

This information will be reported to DPS either by completing the CR-43 form initiated by law enforcement or reporting directly online to the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS). DPS has regional representatives who can provide training and get your court set up to report online.

Because we do not have access to the CJIS system at TJCTC, we are unable to answer technical questions about the system or how the reporting works. However, we are in the process of working with DPS to create a webinar for justice courts related to the reporting process.

You can find more information about reporting and the necessary forms on the DPS website, here.

If you would like contact information for your regional representative, please email Amber Myers at A_M1814@tjctc.org.

Another good resource for practical information on reporting these cases is your county or district clerk as they report the same information on case dispositions in their respective courts.

 

 

TAC Cybersecurity Training Registration Open

Did you see the Texas Association of Counties’ (TAC) legislative newsletter today? It announced that registration is open for TAC’s cybersecurity training course that is certified by the Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR).

This course satisfies the annual cybersecurity training requirement for county employees and is free to all Texas counties.

Click here for more information.

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).

If you have any questions or concerns about this case or how it affects application of eviction laws and procedures, you may discuss this matter with your county attorney.

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

Very truly yours,

TJCTC

Fees and Costs Clarification

Many courts have expressed confusion about the changes to the State Traffic Fine and when it goes into effect. The $20 increase (from $30 to $50) should be applied to all offenses that occur on or after September 1, 2019. It is important to make sure that any update to the software system that your court uses is implementing this change correctly.

You can find more details on the TJCTC Fees & Costs Cheat Sheet.

Also note that there was a typo on the first version of the Cheat Sheet that was emailed out, regarding the effective date of the Time Payment Reimbursement Fee changes. The most updated version can be found at the link below.

TJCTC Legal Department

Click here to download the Fees and Costs Cheat Sheet

or visit our Legislative Update webpage for more information.

 

Newly Certified Clerks – Galveston Seminar

The Justice Court Clerk Certification Program allows experienced justice court clerks to demonstrate their knowledge of statutes, procedures, and ethical guidelines applicable to Texas justice courts. Justice court clerks who pass an examination receive certification as a Certified Clerk or a Master Certified Clerk.

The following clerks attended the Galveston seminar in February 2019 and passed their certification exams:


  • Master Certified Clerks
    • Nikki Ashley – Johson County
    • Evelyn Butler – Montgomery County
    • Hailey Clark – Harris County
    • Kristy Goodspeed – Hill County
    • Catalina Mainheit – Fort Bend County
    • Roxana Pantoja – Collin County
    • Kacey Wymack – Fort Bend County

  • Level 1 Certified Clerks – Criminal
    • Erica Baird – Fort Bend County
    • Taylor Christian – Brazoria County
    • Sandra Fails – Polk County
    • Rosa Gallegos – El Paso County
    • Melanie Guzman – Hidalgo County
    • Angie Ibarra – Waller County
    • Christi Johnson – Bandera County
    • Vicky Page – Chambers County
    • Sharon Patterson – Polk County
    • Evie Perez – Harris County
    • Melissa Ringo – Montgomery County
    • Claudia Sanchez Costillo – Kaufman County
    • Roxana Sifuentes – Galveston County
    • Teri Stout – Parker County
    • Valeria Villacorta – Harris County
    • Brooke Moore Wiggins – Collin County
    • Sharon Williams – Brazoria County

  • Level 1 Certified Clerk – Civil
    • Justin Bonds – Hill County
    • Katherine Bouse – Jefferson County
    • Loren Donaldson – Brazoria County
    • Jessica Mosqueda – Harris County
    • Tatiana Raya – Montgomery County
    • Stephanie Solis – Medina County
    • Melanie White – Johnson County

Congratulations to all of our newly certified clerks!!!

Newly Certified Clerks – San Marcos Fall Seminar

The Justice Court Clerk Certification Program allows experienced justice court clerks to demonstrate their knowledge of statutes, procedures, and ethical guidelines applicable to Texas justice courts. Justice court clerks who pass an examination receive certification as a Certified Clerk or a Master Certified Clerk.

The following clerks attended the San Marcos seminar in November 2018 and passed their certification exams:


  • Master Certified Clerks
    • Kelly Kinsinger – Travis County
    • Eva Romero – Maverick County
    • Brandy Wood – Johnson County

  • Level 1 Certified Clerks – Criminal
    • Stacy Allen – Denton County
    • Donna Busse – Grimes County
    • Lorraine Camacho-Rodriguez – Travis County
    • Tracy Casiano – Bexar County
    • Leticia Gonzales Lopez – Karnes County
    • Sandi Hollinger – Nueces County
    • Lakeisha Lowe – Dallas County
    • Vanessa Thompson – Bowie County

  • Level 1 Certified Clerks – Civil
    • Kristine Bode – Guadalupe County
    • Shelbie Carwile – Guadalupe County
    • Kristy Gonzalez – Bexar County
    • Kimberly Moya – Bexar County
    • Jacqueline Parchem – Waller County
    • Cassie Wise – Bandera County

Congratulations to all of our newly certified clerks!!!