Please read this packet completely before filing your suit. Legal advice can only be obtained from an attorney. Our Court Clerks are trained in procedure only, and cannot give any legal advice. This is for the clerk’s protection as well as you own. The following procedural instructions are the only information you will receive from this office. You may need to consult an attorney to protect your interests.
A suit should be filed in the County and Precinct where one or more Defendants reside. (CPRC 15.082). However, there are exceptions to this rule. For further information, see "Venue in Justice Court Suits."
A Justice Court Suit is a civil suit for money damages, possession of real property, and enforcement of liens on personal property. The amount of controversy must total $10,000 or less, interest excluded.
A Small Claims Court Suit is a civil suit for money damages only (you may not recover personal property). The amount in controversy must total $10,000 or less, interest included. For more information please read "Comparison of Justice Court and Small Claims Court".
PARTIES TO THE SUIT:
NAME OF THE PLAINTIFF: This is the party that is instituting the suit. Only the individual(s) or company(s) named at the top of the Petition as Plaintiff(s) may collect a Judgment in favor of the Plaintiff. You must sue the Defendant(s) in their proper legal capacity.
As an Individual: You must sue the Defendant individually in the following two situations: (1) the Defendant is personally responsible to you for damages he/she may have caused you, and (2) the Defendant as an individual operating a proprietorship or partnership is responsible to you for damages he/she may have caused.
As a Proprietorship or Partnership: A proprietorship or partnership is a business that is not incorporated, but has filed an “Assumed Name” with the County Clerk. For example, “John Smith, d/b/a Smith Plumbing Company.” To determine whether a company or an individual has an assumed name you must contact the County Clerk’s office in the County where the company is located.
As a Corporation: If the business that has injured you is incorporated, you must contact the State Comptroller’s Office at (800) 252-1386, or the Secretary of State at (512) 463-5555. Ask for the name and address for service of the Registered Agent for service of the corporation (the President or Vice-President will also work). This is the person who has been authorized to receive information regarding lawsuits filed against this corporation. For example: when completing your complaint, the name of the Defendant should read “ABC Corporation, by serving John Smith, Registered Agent.”
A Constable or Sheriff, in the County where the Defendant is located, must serve each Defendant personally, usually.
COSTS OF COURT:
If paying by check please make them payable to: JUSTICE COURT
STATING YOUR CLAIM:
State the nature of your claim fully, listing specific facts and circumstances about your claim. You must itemize how you obtained the total amount of your claim if it involves more than one item. You may not diminish the amount of your claim in order to qualify for the jurisdiction of this Court. For example: if your evidence shows that you sustained $8,000 in damages, you cannot tell the Court that you are “willing to take $10,000.” This would result in your claim being dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
AFTER SUIT IS FILED
SERVICE OF CITATION:
After you have filed your petition the Court will issue and forward the Citation(s) to the Constable or Sheriff’s office you have indicated for service on the Defendant(s). Although the Citation will leave the Court promptly, it can take several weeks or more for the Citation to be personally served. It is your responsibility to ensure service of your Citation. Check periodically by telephone either with this office or the Constable or Sheriff’s office directly.
Once the Citation has been served the Defendant must file a written answer to the suit on or before the Monday next following the expiration of ten days, beginning with the date of service. If he/she fails to do so, you may obtain a "Default Judgment.” You will be asked to briefly state the facts of your case and present any documentation to substantiate those damages. You MUST prepare a written itemization of your damages.
In Small Claims Court, a party may represent himself regardless of whether he is an individual, proprietorship, or corporation. In Justice Court, however, a corporation must retain counsel (an attorney). Non-attorney agents in either venue cannot represent parties except for "Default Judgments." The Texas Rules of Evidence and Texas Rules of Civil Procedure are in effect in Justice Court suits, but not in Small Claim Court suits.
Witnesses: If there are witnesses who will not come to Court voluntarily, you may request that a Subpoena be prepared and served to secure their presence in Court. This should be done at least two weeks before trial in order to allow for service of the Subpoena. The Court does not guarantee that service will be obtained. Successful service of witness subpoenas is your responsibility. There is a charge for the Court to issue a Subpoena, but there is a service fee (See "Citation" above.), and a $10.00 bill must be attached to the top of the Subpoena.
Evidentiary Subpoenas: If the Defendant or any other witness has documentation that you do not have, and that is necessary to prove your case, you may have the person who has control of the evidence subpoenaed to bring the documentation to Court. The items you want must be listed clearly and attached to the Subpoena. All of the other information mentioned above is also applicable to evidentiary subpoenas.
If you desire a trial by jury, it may require the trial date to be reset. Jury trials often last several hours longer than a trial heard by the Judge, so please plan your schedule accordingly.
If the Defendant files a written answer your case should be set for trial not less than 45 days after the Court received the answer. You will receive written notice of your Court date. If you change your address or phone number please notify the Court immediately. Arrive on time for your scheduled trial or hearing.
MOTIONS FOR CONTINUANCE:
All Motions for Continuance, or requests to reset the Court date, must be in writing and received by the Court no later than three working days prior to your Court date. Weekends and Holidays are excluded. The Plaintiff and the Defendant are each entitled to request one reset “only for good cause,” and all other reset requests must be made by agreement of both parties. (Gov’t. Code 28.033)
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TRIAL?
Either party has ten (10) days or (five) 5 days in eviction suits in which to appeal the Judge’s decision. An appeal bond and “Notice of Appeal” must be filed with the Court on or before 5:00pm on the 10th day (5th day in eviction suits) after the date of Judgment. Appeals filed after this date will be denied.
MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL:
Motions for New Trial must be filed in writing within five (5) days from the date of the Judgment.
COLLECTION OF JUDGMENTS:
If you receive a Judgment against the Defendant and the Defendant does not file a Motion for New Trial within five days, does not file an Appeal, or does not pay the Judgment you may seek other remedies to collect your Judgment. The Justice Court cannot assist you in collection of your Judgment. Below are listed some remedies that are available to you, and that may assist you in the collection of the Judgment.