Justice of the Peace - FAQ

Civil Cases

This information is provided as a guide for the public. The Court is not allowed by law to provide legal advice.

Can I talk to the Judge about my case?

No, the Judge is barred by law from talking to either side of a case without the other person (or persons) present. That is considered a one-sided conversation (ex-parte).

What are the different kinds of Civil cases?

The four different kinds of civil lawsuits heard in Justice Court are:

SMALL CLAIMS

A small claims case is a lawsuit brought for the recovery of money damages, civil penalties, personal property, or other relief allowed by law. The claim can be for no more than $20,000, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any.

DEBT CLAIM

A debt claim case is a lawsuit brought to recover a debt by an assignee of a claim, a debt collector or collection agency, a financial institution, or a person or entity primarily engaged in the business of lending money at interest. The claim can be for no more than $20,000, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any.

EVICTION

An eviction case is a lawsuit brought to recover possession of real property, often by a landlord against a tenant. A claim for rent may be joined with an eviction case if the amount of rent due and unpaid is not more than $20,000, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any.

REPAIR AND REMEDY

A repair and remedy case is a lawsuit filed by a residential tenant under Chapter 92, Subchapter B of the Texas Property Code to enforce the landlord’s duty to repair or remedy a condition materially affecting the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant. The relief sought can be for no more than $10,000, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any.

I was just served with a civil citation, what now?

If it was a small claims citation, it will tell you that you must answer to the suit by the end of the 14th day after the day you were served the papers. If the 14th day is a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday, the answer is due by the end of the first day following the Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday. Your answer is simply your denial or acknowledgment of the debt, not the merits of the case. If you deny the debt, the case will be set for trial; if you acknowledge the debt, a judgement will be rendered against you without trial.

If you were served with an eviction citation, there will be a hearing date and time on the citation. This is the date and time you should appear in court to tell the Judge why you should not be evicted.

Your failure to answer or appear could result in a default judgement rendered against you.

I need to file a small claims suit, where do I file it and how much does it cost

The basic rule of venue (location where the suit will be heard) is that someone has the right to be sued where they live; there are exceptions to this rule. Should there be a motion by the defendant (the person being sued) to transfer venue, a hearing will be held to determine if a transfer of venue will be granted. This could delay the proceedings.

If the transfer is granted, the plaintiff (person bringing the suit) will be required to pay filing fees again. In Clay County, the filing fee is $54.00 and the service fee is currently $110 for each person sued. If the person sued lives outside Clay County, please call the Court for information.

How much can I sue for in Justice Court?

The jurisdictional limit in Justice Court is $20,000, excluding statutory interest and court costs, but including attorney’s fees, if any.

Where do I file an eviction suit?

An eviction suit must be filed in the Justice of the Peace precinct where the property is located. Clay County has one Justice of the Peace precinct. All evictions for property in Clay County are filed in this Court.

Can I include electric / water bills along with past due rent in an eviction suit?

No, the only thing that is considered in an eviction suit is who has a greater right to possession of the property in question and if any past due rent is owed. Any other debt can be addressed in a small claims suit.

Can the property owner send an agent to file the case and appear in court for them?

Yes, when the agent appears in court, they must have a signed, notarized statement from the property owner designating the person as their agent. The agent must also have knowledge of the facts and be able to testify to the facts in court.

Can I get my marriage license at the Justice of the Peace office and get married there?

No, a marriage license can be obtained through any County Clerk’s office in the State of Texas. In Clay County, the County Clerk is at the Court House Annex:

214 N. Main Street

Henrietta, Texas 76365

940.538.4631.

The Clay County Justice of the Peace does not perform marriage ceremonies. Please contact the County Judge’s office at 940.538.4651 for other options.

Can I pay my property taxes here?

No, property taxes can be paid at the Clay County Appraisal District office:

101 E. Omega

Henrietta, Texas 76365

940.538.4311.