Texas Justice Courts—Do It Yourself!




Podcast Episode 5—Bringing Your Dispute to Texas Justice Courts and Small Claims Courts

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Podcast Episode Timestamps

00:00 — Topic
00:27 — JP courts increased their jurisdictional limits to $20K
00:43 — What prompted this episode, and initial thoughts
02:20 — Either party can appeal “de novo”
03:00 — What “de novo” means
03:30 — Where to find the rules governing JP courts
04:15 — Generally, no discovery permitted in JP and why it matters
05:09 — Likely mandatory mediation on day of trial, and what it means
05:40 — What happens if you settle during the mediation
06:00 — What a settlement agreement is, and why it matters
07:15 — What happens if you get a judgment and the judgment debtor does not voluntarily pay (discussion of post-judgment collection, generally)
09:40 — General discussion of exempt property in Texas
11:10 — Judgments do not last forever without taking action
12:20 — Other post-judgment collection steps that can be taken
13:50 — Writ of garnishment, what it is, generally
14:45 — Entities do not own exempt property
15:30 — Why it might make sense to pursue your claim in JP court without a lawyer
16:10 — Treat everyone with dignity and respect and always ask questions for guidance
17:37 — If you get a judgment, ask about next steps for post-judgment collection (but they will not provide “legal advice”)
18:40 — What has been your experience with JP court?
18:48 — What to do if you have a question for me
20:45 — Outro

Can You Do It Yourself?

Generally, yes.  It often makes sense to pursue your own claim in JP Court (also referred to as Justice Court and Small Claims Court).  If you are unhappy with the outcome, you can appeal “de novo” to county court.  “De novo” means the case will start over from the beginning with no precedential value placed on the outcome of the trial in justice court.

Governing Law

Justice courts are goverened by the rules found in the 500s section of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Find a PDF of the rules HERE. Additional rules governing justice courts can be found in the Government Code HERE.

How Does It Work?

You can find more details in the linked podcast episode. But, generally, you will interface with the staff at the Justice Court. If you don’t know what to do or how to do something, ask them. But, always treat them with the utmost kindness and respect.

What if We Settle?

You can find more details in the linked podcast episode.  But, you need to know that settlement agreements are contracts, not court orders.  Failure to pay a settlement agreement gives rise to a breach of contract lawsuit.

What if I Obtain a Judgment?

It doesn’t automatically last forever. You can find more details in the linked podcast episode. But, you need to know that a judgment is a debt and Texas is a debtor-friendly state. There are steps you will need to take to prevent your judgment from going dormant and eventually unrevivable. The rules can be found HERE. Technically, if a writ of execution is not issued within 10 years of the judgment’s rendition, the judgment will become dormant. If another writ of execution is not issued within 10 years of the previous writ of execution the judgment will become dormant. If a judgment becomes dormant and is not revived within two years with a “scire facias or by an action of debt” then the judgment may no longer be revived.

Postjudgment collections can be involved, but powerful. You can find more details in the linked podcast episode. But, you should know that after obtaining a judgment, you may want to pursue post-judgment collections including abstracting the judgment, ordering a writ of execution, propounding post-judgment discovery, and possibly pursuing extraordinary remedies such as writs of garnishment.

Disclaimer: This audio and blog post are for informational purposes only and should not be misinterpreted as legal or other professional advice. If you have a legal question, you should consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction. Thank you for tuning in to Keith Law, PLLC.

(Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels)

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