Justice of the Peace
The justice of the peace is the legal jurisdiction closest to the average citizen.
Section 19 of Article 5 of the Texas Constitution provides that: justice of the peace courts have original jurisdiction in criminal matters of misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only and such other jurisdiction as may be provided by law. Original jurisdiction is the authority to accept a case at its inception, try it and pass judgment based upon the laws and facts. This is distinguished from appellate jurisdiction which is jurisdiction to review a court's action. The justice of the peace performs the functions of a magistrate and conducts inquests.
A justice of the peace may issue warrants for search and arrest, conduct preliminary hearings, administers oaths, perform marriages and serve as a coroner in counties where there is no provision for a medical examiner. The justice court also functions as a small claims court in civil matters in which exclusive jurisdiction is not in district or county court and the amount in controversy does not exceed $20,000. They can also deal with matters concerning foreclosure of mortgages and enforcement of liens on personal property.
As the place where Justice Starts, it is the mission of the Justice of the Peace to serve the people by efficient and accessible administration of Justice for all, and to treat all persons with integrity, fairness and respect. It is the duty of Justice of the Peace, to act in a neutral capacity to serve all citizens, law enforcement agencies, merchants, school districts, and various other county and state regulatory agencies who file either civil or criminal actions.
Goals of the Court
The foremost important goals of the Justice Court must be:
- To constantly improve and maintain the quality and integrity of Justice provided by the Court and ensuring all persons the Justice Court will meet their needs with all the sensitivity and responsive methods possible
- To increase the uniformity in procedures
- To utilize the functions of technology as a process for accomplishing these and any future goals
The Justice of the Peace and clerks may not give legal advice or tell you what and how to file.
The Texas Justice Court Training Center website has helpful information if you are filing a Small Claims, Debt Claim or Eviction case. This link also includes information regarding Small Claims, Debt Claim, or an Eviction Case filed against you, as well as links to legal aide.