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Justice of the Peace Justice Court and Small Claims
The primary function of the Justice of the Peace when considering civil matters is to hold civil court, both justice and small claims, as quickly and judiciously as possibile to relieve the caseload of the higher courts. There are basically three types of civil suits filed in Justice Court: Civil Suits, Small Claims, and Evictions. The Rules of Civil Procedure are not applied in Small Claims Court, and it is much less formal.

The Justice Court and Small Claims are very similar in nature and are discussed here. Evictions are discussed separately.

To begin an action in the Justice Court system, 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. All forms used to file a petition are found in the Form Downloads section

Disclaimer: The information contained in this section is NOT purported to be all inclusive. Neither is it intended to serve as legal advice. You are strongly encouraged to consult the actual law, or consult with an attorney for answers to your questions.

The Justice Court
  • The amount of debt or damages for which you may sue in Justice Court may not exceed the limit of the court, which is $10,000 EXCLUSIVE of interest .
  • In all civil suites, the defendant has the right to be sued in the county and precinct in which they reside.
  • Once you have filed the petition stating the facts and circumstance of your suit, a citation will be served to the defendant notifying him of the fact that a suit has been filed against him in this court.
  • The citation will order the defendant to answer this suit on or before 10 a.m. the Monday following the expiration of ten days from the receipt of the citation. If he fails to do so, you then become eligible for a default judgment up until the time an answer is filed
  • If the defendant answers the suit, this court will notify both parties by mail of the trial date. We discourage motions for continuance. Any request for a continuance must be in proper written form and timely filed.
  • With respect to the trial itself, all legal rules of evidence and procedure apply in Justice Court suits. An attorney in Justice Court MUST represent CORPORATIONS
  • Should you receive judgment, the court does not collect the judgment. However, you may request an Abstract of Judgment and / or Writ of Execution and/or a Writ of Garnishment to help you in collection of this judgment.
Small Claims Court
  • The amount of debt or damages for which you may sue in Justice Court may not exceed the limit of the court, which is $10,000 INCLUSIVE of interest .
  • In all civil suites, the defendant has the right to be sued in the county and precinct in which they reside.
  • It is your burden as a plaintiff to sue the defendant in their proper legal capacity, of which there are typically three. They are as follows:
    • Personally: Where an individual is responsible to you for damages he may have caused you as an individual.
    • Proprietor or partnershiip: A business that is not incorporated, but does have on file with the County Clerk as assumed name e.g. John Tate d.b.a. John Tate ind./dba Merchantile supplies. To determine whether or not this person has filed an assumed name, you would contact the County Clerk at the Smith County Courthouse
    • Corporation: The business which has allegedly caused you damage is incorporated and therefore it is necessary to know the individual's name who is able to accept service on behalf of the corporation. We also need the individual's address (The authorized agent for service would be listed with the Secretary of State whose phone number is 1-512-463-5555).
  • You are strongly urged to discuss your case with an attorney if you are suing a proprietor, partnership, or corporation. You are responsible for suing the correct party in their correct capacity. Nothing within this section should be construed as legas advice.
  • With respect to the trial itself, all legal rules of evidence and procedure apply in Justice Court suits. An attorney in Justice Court MUST represent CORPORATIONS
  • If, as plaintiff, you are in the business of loaning money either primarily (banks, credit unions, savings and loans), or secondarily (credit cards) you are NOT allowed to file in the Small Claims Court; however, an attorney representing any of the above may file suits on the behalf of the above in the Justice Court. Also, an action in Small Claims Court may not be brought by an assigned claim; or collection agency.
Smith County Texas
100 N. Broadway Tyler, Texas
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phone 1.903.590.2600 | email comments@smith-county.com