January 2020 Spotlight – Constable Lee R. Callan, Menard County

Tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is Lee R. Callan. I am a native of Menard County, Texas. I grew up on my family’s ranch which is located on a railroad depot at Callan, Texas. I am 5th generation rancher and own a material construction business. After high school, I graduated from Angelo State University where I assisted the collegiate track team. I enjoyed serving on the board of directors for West Texas Boys Ranch. I am a Master Peace Officer and certified TCLOE Instructor. Currently, I am attending the Texas Association of Counties Leadership 254 Class. I am Texan to the core but I cheer for LSU and went to the National Championship game. GO TIGERS!

What made you decide to become a constable?
My interest and service in law enforcement comes from a family tradition. My great, great grandfather was a Texas Ranger and founding judge of Menard County. My grandfather was a practicing attorney. About 20 years ago, I was encouraged by a Justice of the Peace to run for Constable. I went to the law enforcement academy “later in life” in order to become a certified peace officer. I want to give back to my community which has given so much to me.

What is something innovative, interesting, or fun your office does?
I am a pilot and I use my R44 helicopter to assist law enforcement in this and surrounding counties when I can for search and rescue missions. I was able to locate a four year old girl that had been missing for about five hours in a rural area. She was about a mile and a half from her house in the middle of pasture and it was near dark. I used to scuba dive and was part of group of volunteers that was asked to locate a deceased person in a large lake.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is the people I serve, not only in Menard County but the great State of Texas. Menard is a small town and I enjoy knowing just about everyone. On Halloween, I drive around to hand out candy to the children on the same streets I trick or treated on 60 years ago. I serve as a bailiff in all the courts in Menard County including our five county District Court. I frequently serve as security at events like football, basketball and other meetings as the community requests. I have a positive relationship with our Sheriff’s Office and assist when needed. In my small town, escorting a funeral or parade is an honor and I am blessed to be involved.

 

Legal Board Question of the Month

January 2020

Question: Just needed a bit of clarification please. The new time pay fee ($15): is this only on tickets that are written after Jan 1st (and set up on payment plan, etc.) or any ticket that is set up after Jan 1st for payment plan, etc. Thank you.

Answer: Yes. The Time Payment Reimbursement Fee that became effective January 1, 2020, will apply to all fees assessed after that date, regardless of the date of offense or the date of the conviction. Please see page 19 of the Fines, Fees, & Costs Deskbook for a detailed description of when the Time Payment Reimbursement Fee applies, as there are some differences from the previous version of the Time Payment Fee assessed prior to 1/1/2020. The Deskbooks can be found at: https://www.tjctc.org/tjctc-resources/Deskbooks.html

Legal Board Question of the Month

December 2019

Question: Parent Contributing to Non-Attendance/Truant Conduct question – The school has a policy that if a student is late 15 minutes or more late to school/class it’s considered a LOSIT (Loss of Significant Instructional Time). Would this be considered a part of a day? I know if a student is late to school or class it’s a tardy. Based off the law can the school district use this LOSIT as part of the tenth absence within the six month period? Again this is the District’s policy.

Answer: School district policy doesn’t impact Texas law. This question was recently answered, and can be found by searching the board for the word tardies.

In a 1993 opinion, the attorney general concluded that absences generally do not include tardiness to class, especially if the student is present on the campus but late to class. The particular circumstances of a child’s tardiness on a certain day may be sufficiently egregious to constitute an absence, but school districts should not routinely classify each instance of tardiness as an absence for purposes of truancy. (Op. Tex. Att’y Gen. No. DM-200 (1993)). This would also apply to parent contributing to nonattendance cases.

Also note that the court should not be involved in determining which truancy cases a prosecutor should file. If and when a case is filed, the court’s role is to make a determination on that case.

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

December Spotlight – Hon. Mark Russo, Justice of the Peace, Rockwall County Pct. 3

Tell us a bit about yourself
I am originally from Canton, Ohio, and the rock singer Marilyn Manson was my neighbor (I believe the water is safe.) I have degrees in Culinary and Broadcasting.  For 20 years, I have also been a pro wrestler, worked in Radio and TV, as well as been involved in historic preservation. I am married to Nicole and have two amazing boys Alex and Lincoln.

In 2008 I was elected to Rockwall City Council and was selected as Mayor Pro-Tem in 2011. I then ran in 2012 for Justice of the Peace and won. I have been involved in JPCA and TAC since being elected and believe I get the weirdest cases TJCTC has ever heard of (Right Thea?!!). I have also served on various committees throughout the state.

Personally, I may be the most energetic and creative person you will ever meet. Truly passionate and I love people and making a difference in people’s lives. Every day should be an adventure!

What made you decide to become a Justice of the Peace?
I ran for a newly created Justice of the Peace position. Every aspect of this job energizes me. The Justice of the Peace position in Rockwall County is very diverse. Every day is different. This job allows me to be able to utilize different facets of my talents and challenges me every day! I enjoy coming up with out of the box solutions.

What is something innovative, interesting or fun your office does? During Christmas we honor the twelve days of Christmas and sometimes the Elf on the Shelf attacks the office.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Every moment and interaction can have a positive impact on someone. I have found that I can make a big difference by taking a little extra time on the bench. It’s great to have a job you can love every day.

What makes a good judge? A positive attitude, humility, and willingness to be a good listener.

Legal Board Question of the Month

November 2019

Q. If a plaintiff comes in and asks if an address is in our precinct and we look it up and let them know which precinct it’s in, is that considered giving legal advice?

A. No, assisting a person in determining whether or not an address is in your precinct is not giving legal advice; it is giving factual information.  One way to do this is to help the person look up the address on a map showing the precinct boundaries or in some counties you can enter an address in a database and it will state which precinct that address is in. A court may assist a person in obtaining this factual information.

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.