Justice of the Peace Civil Cases

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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.

In any Small Claim or Debt Claim case once you have filed the petition stating the facts and circumstance of your suit, the citation will be served to the Defendant notifying him/her of the fact that a suit has been filed against them in this court.

The citation will order the Defendant to answer this suit by the end of the 14th day after the day the Defendant was served with the citation and petition, but

  • if the 14th day is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the answer is due on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday; and
  • if the 14th day falls on a day during which the court is closed before 5:00 p.m., the answer is due on the court's next business day.

If he/she fails to answer the suit in a timely manner, you then become eligible for a default judgment up until the time an answer is filed. You as the Plaintiff are required to request a default hearing with the Court.

If the Defendant answers the suit denying the allegations, 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 all Justice Civil suits.

Should you receive a 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. The fee for an abstract of judgment is $5.00 and will need to be filed at the County Clerk's Office. This will be recorded on the defendant's credit history.

If at anytime, after the suit is filed with the court the defendant pays off the claim it is very important for the plaintiff to notify the Clerk to dismiss the case. If an abstract of judgment has been issued and filed with the County Clerk, a Release of Judgment must be filed with the County Clerk.

Thirty-one days after the judgment is signed, the plaintiff may request a writ of execution. The fee for a writ of execution of $155.00, if the defendant lives in Smith County. The writ enables the Constable or Sheriff to levy on property of the defendant. This is not exempt by the laws of the State of Texas. It is a good idea to talk to a Constable or Sheriff to learn what is exempt property. The Clerk of the Court will notify the plaintiff when the writ has bee returned.