The Justice of Peace (JP) Courts are lower courts in Texas that have jurisdiction over minor criminal offenses and minor civil cases.  The Texas constitution provides that the justice of the peace courts have original jurisdiction in criminal matters of Class C Misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only, and civil matters involving not more than $20,000.  


To begin an action in the Justice Court, it is recommended that the plaintiff file a Justice Court Petition in writing stating the nature of the Cause of Action, and the damages requested.  As a general rule, venue is proper and suit in Justice Court must be brought in the county and in the Justice of the Peace precinct in which (1) the defendant resides; (2) where the incident that gave rise to the claim occurred; (3) where the contract, if any, that gave rise to the claim was to be performed; or (4) where the property is located if the suit is to recover personal property.  


When the case has been filed and the filing fee paid, the clerk will issue a citation and deliver the citation as directed by the requesting party.  The party requesting citation is responsible for obtaining service of a citation. A copy of the petition is attached to the citation. The citation is directed to the defendant and informs the defendant of the filing of the petition, and warns that should the defendant fail to appear at the trial of the claim a judgment by default may be rendered for the relief demanded in the petition.  The citation may be served by any sheriff or constable.  Citations may also be served by personal delivery to the defendant, or by registered or certified mail directed to the defendant, with return receipt requested.  


When the defendant has been served with citation, the defendant must file a written answer to the plaintiff’s petition by the end of the 14th day after the day the defendant was served with the citation and petition.  If the 14th day is a Saturday, Sunday, legal holiday, or day the court is closed, the answer is due on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, or on the court’s next business day. 


After the answer has been filed, a trial date will be set, and the parties are required to appear in front of a judge.  Some cases will have both a jury and judge.  Trial begins with the Opening Statements.  The Petitioner will then present their case and call witnesses. The Defense presents their case last.  Once both sides have presented their case and rested, each party is given an opportunity to have closing arguments.  If a jury trial, the jury is then led out to begin deliberations. When the jury has completed deliberations and made a decision, the Court is called back to order and the verdict read.  A case without a jury will be decided by a judge.  


There are many resources available on county and JP Court websites to assist those wishing to represent themselves in JP Courts.  While the rules and procedures are designed to be simple and straightforward and an individual is not required to hire a lawyer, navigating JP Courts and procedure can still prove difficult and may require an attorney.  If you need assistance addressing any issues relating to filing suit in JP Court or responding to a JP Court suit, the attorneys at Waldron & Schneider are here to assist.  


The legal information in this blog entry is not intended to be a substitute for seeking personalized legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Further, nothing contained in this article is intended to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. This article and website are made available by Waldron & Schneider for educational purposes only and to give basic information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and Waldron & Schneider. The article and website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. For more information or questions you can contact us and one of our attorneys will be in touch soon.

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