New Rules Change Procedures in Justice Court

Effective August of this year, the Supreme Court of Texas has issued new rules governing civil cases filed in justice courts after August 31, 2013. The new rules 500-510 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure divide justice court civil cases into four categories: small claims, debt claims, repair and remedy claims and evictions.

Historically, cases in justice courts were divided into small claims cases and justice court cases. Small claims cases typically involved civil disputes of $10,000.00 or less. However, these same cases could also be heard as a justice court case. The Texas Rules of Evidence applied to justice court cases, but not to small claims cases. Under the old rules, justice court proceedings could become quite confusing.

The new rules simplify justice courts proceedings and make the applicable rules easier to locate. General rules governing all cases will be found in rules 500-507. These rules will apply to all small claims cases, and any other case not covered by rules 508, 509, and 510 which may be filed in justice court. Small claims cases will continue to apply to any disputes over monetary sums of $10,000.00 or less. In computing the $10,000.00 amount, attorney’s fees incurred will continue to be included, while statutory interest and court costs will not. To the extent the general rules are not in conflict with rules 508, 509, and 510, they will also apply to debt claims, repair and remedy claims, and eviction claims. To the extent that rules 508, 509, or 510 conflict with the general rules, the specific rules shall control. All other rules of civil procedure and rules of evidence not included in rules 500-510 will typically not apply in justice courts. Justice Court judges enjoy the continued discretion to question witnesses or parties, summon witnesses to appear. or to allow reasonable pretrial discovery.

The new rules streamline the justice court process making the court more accessible to both attorneys and laymen alike. Even though justice courts are widely considered the people’s court, representation by competent counsel is still advised to adequately protect your individual interests.