Justice Court Suits
About the Justice Court
The Justice Courts in Texas were created under the Texas Constitution and are governed by the provisions of Chapter 27 of the Texas Government Code. Prior to August 31, 2013, Justices of the peace also sat as judges of the small claims courts. Effective August 31, 2013, small claims cases are filed in the Justice Courts and governed by procedural rules adopted by the Supreme Court.
Justice Courts have jurisdiction of civil matters in which the amount in controversy is no more than $20,000, exclusive of interest and court costs, but including attorney fees, if any. Justice Courts also have jurisdiction of suits to foreclose mortgages and enforce liens on personal property in which the amount in controversy is otherwise within the Justice Court’s jurisdiction, and of suits relating to enforcement of a deed restriction of a residential subdivision that does not concern a structural change to a dwelling.
Justice Courts have jurisdiction of debt claim cases, claims for the recovery of a debt brought by an assignee of a claim, a financial institution, a debt collector or collection agency, or a person or entity primarily engaged in the business of lending money at interest.
The Justice Courts also have jurisdiction of cases of forcible entry and detainer, or evictions.
Justice Courts do not have jurisdiction of suits for divorce, suits to recover damages for slander or defamation, suits for title to land, or suits to enforce a lien on land. See Sec. 27.031, Texas Government Code.
Jurisdiction is the power of the court to entertain an action, consider the merits, and render a valid judgment.
Rules of Procedure and Evidence
The Texas Supreme Court has adopted Rules of Practice in Justice Courts effective August 31, 2013. As of that date, Rules 523-591 and 737-755 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure are repealed.
Rules of Civil Procedure 500-510 govern cases filed in the Justice Courts on or after August 31, 2013 and also govern cases pending on that date. The procedural rules governing the district and county courts no longer apply in the Justice Courts except when the judge hearing the case determines that a particular rule must be following to ensure that the proceedings are fair to all parties, or when made applicable by law or the rules. Rule 500.3.
Small Claims Cases are governed by Rules 500-507, Rules of Practice in Justice Courts.
Debt Claim Cases are governed by Rules 500-507, and Rule 508 (Rules 508.1 – 508.3), Rules of Practice in Justice Courts. To the extent of any conflict between Rule 508 and the other Rules of Practice in Justice Courts, Rule 508 applies.
Eviction Cases are governed by Rules 500 – 507, and Rule 510 (Rule 510.1 – 510.13), Rules of Practice in Justice Courts. To the extent of any conflict between Rule 510 and the other Rules of Practice in Justice Courts, Rule 510 applies.
The Texas Rules of Evidence do not apply in Justice Court except when the judge hearing the case determines that a particular rule must be followed to ensure that the proceedings are fair to all parties, or when otherwise specifically provided by law or the Rules of Practice in Justice Courts
Designation of Parties
In legal terms, the party bringing the action is called the "Plaintiff." The one against whom the action is brought is called the "Defendant."
On and after August 31, 2013, an individual may represent himself or herself in Justice Court, or may be represented by an attorney. An individual representing himself or herself in Justice Court may be assisted by a family member or other individual who is not compensated for their assistance if the Court finds a necessity for this assistance. In an eviction case, an individual may be represented by an authorized agent. Rule 500.4
On and after August 31, 2013, a corporation or other entity may be represented in Justice Court by an employee, owner, officer, or partner of the entity who is not an attorney. In an eviction case, a corporation or other entity may be represented by a property manager or other authorized agent. Rule 500.4
Parties who represent themselves in the Justice Court are required to follow Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Part V, Rules of Practice in Justice Courts and the Texas Rules of Evidence if required to do so.