How to file a small claims lawsuit in texas

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. Small claims cases are governed by Rules 500-507 of Part V of the Rules of Civil Procedure.

To search the Justice Court Precinct for your case, please visit Tarrant County Comprehensive Address Information Directory.

For information on Justice Court Rules, please visit Texas Judicial Branch Rules and Forms website.

FORMS NEEDED:

  • To provide proof of Military status, please visit Single Record Request to verify Active Duty Status.

PAYMENT OPTIONS:

1. File with Justice Court 1 and serve in Tarrant County

2. File with Justice Court 1 and serve outside Tarrant County

  • The plaintiff is responsible to provide the court with the following information: name, address, phone number, and separate payment for the service fee for the Constable, Sheriff, or other agency that will be serving the citation.

Note: Cases filed with a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs cannot be filed using "Guide and File." These cases MUST be filed through EFileTexas.

-For information on filing online, please visit E-File.

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A small claims case is a lawsuit brought for the recovery of money damages, civil penalties, personal property, or other relief allowed by the law. The claim can be for no more than $20,000.00, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any.

When filing a small claims lawsuit, if there are any additional questions that are not addressed below, please consult an attorney.

  1. The amount of debt, damages, and property (exclusive of court costs) may not exceed $20,000.00 at the time the petition is filed, except in matters involving deed restrictions.

    Abstract of Judgment – can be obtained ten (10) days after the judgment is signed. An abstract of judgment puts a lien on real property owned by the defendant in the county or counties where it is filed. It is good for ten (10) years.

12. The court can assist with procedural matters, but cannot give legal advice.

13. Fee Schedule:

Fee Services Total
Small Claims $ 46.00 $ 80.00 $ 126.00
Jury $ 22.00 NA $ 22.00
Abstract $ 5.00 NA $ 5.00
Writ of Execution $ 5.00 $ 250.00 $ 255.00
Subpoena $ 10.00 $ 80.00 $ 90.00
Writ of Garnishment $ 51.00 $ 150.00 $ 201.00
Turnover Order $ 27.00 $ 80.00 $ 107.00

******These fees are subject to change without notice.

NOTE: Out of county service costs must be ascertained by the Plaintiff and paid upon filing the lawsuit.

To begin the process, click on the link below to fill out the small claims petition:

Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond – Fill out this form if unable to pay the court fees. Please read the additional information about this form – click here.

Small claims court is designed to help parties who do not have attorneys resolve their disputes quickly and inexpensively. In small claims court, claims must be less than $20,000. Small claims judges can only award money judgments.

What happens after filing a claim?
Once the Defendant has been properly served (notice of suit), they have must provide a written answer to the court by the 14th day after the date of service. Once the defendant answers, a court date will be set, and both parties will be notified via mail of that date and time.

NOTE: If you move or have a change of address or phone number, you must notify the court of that change. Failure to do so may result in you not receiving notification of the court date and the case being dismissed.

How can I request a Motion for Continuance?
The motion must be submitted to the court at least 14 days prior to trial and must be done in writing. If the court does not receive the motion within the required deadline, the motion for continuance will be denied.

What about the Venue?
Generally, an action in small claims must be brought in the county and precinct in which the defendant resides, the county and precinct where the incident, or the majority of the incidents, that gave rise to the claim occurred, the county and precinct where the contract or agreement was performed, or the county and precinct where the property in question is located.

Justice Courts are governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure

This Court accepts filings for Small Claims Suits and for Debt Claims Suits. If you have any procedural questions, please contact our Civil Clerk at (972) 204-6730.
This court cannot answer any legal questions.

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. Details on the Small Claims process are included on the Small Claims Petition:

Debt Claims

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:

Judgment

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. Refer to the Self Help/ Legal Resources page for more information.

Payments may be made by credit / debit card (2.35% service charge applies), money order, cashier’s check, cash (exact change preferred), or personal check (in state account only).

Disclaimer

The matters discussed here are for informational purpose only. Nothing on this site should be construed as a legal advice. For legal advice, you should speak to an attorney.

A Small Claims Court is a judicial forum to hear and decide civil cases involving claims for money only, not to exceed $20,000. These cases are not strictly bound by the rules of civil procedure or evidence and the judge may ask questions.

To begin a Small Claims Lawsuit a petition must be filed with the clerk keeping in mind the defendant has the right to be sued in the county and precinct in which he resides. At the time of filing you must swear under oath that this small claim statement is true and pay the filing fee and the service of citation fee.

The Defendant must be served a citation before the suit can commence. If the Defendant answers the suit, the case may be referred to the Dispute Resolution Center for mediation upon request or go forward to trial. The Plaintiff must request the case to be set for final hearing. The Plaintiff or Defendant may submit to the court a request to subpoena witnesses to appear at trial and pay the required fees. The Plaintiff or Defendant must bring to Court on the day of the trial any evidence they intend to present to the Court or witnesses they intend to have testify for them. Any request for continuance must be in proper written form and timely filed, Government Code § 28.032.

If the defendant does not answer, you may be eligible for a default judgment. A hearing may be set for the Plaintiff to prove up that amount that is due.

If you receive a judgment, after the time for appeal has past, you may request an Abstract of Judgment and/or certain Writs to assist in collection of judgment. The court cannot collect on any Judgment.

If the Defendant prevails, the Plaintiff will recover no money.

Small Claim filings must have all of the following documentation:

Texas law provides that every county in the state have a Small Claims Court as a forum for settling legal disputes involving cases for money damages up to $10,000. It costs approximately $85 to file a case. You can represent yourself in Small Claims Court or have an attorney. The person filing the lawsuit is called the plaintiff and the person being sued is called the defendant. On January 1, 2012, the Small Claims Court will be merged into another court called the Justice Court, but this will create little change for the Small Claims Process as a whole.

When should I sue?

There are several factors to consider before taking this step. You must weigh the time and effort required to follow through on the case against the amount of money you hope to win. You must be able to locate the person you are suing because s/he must be served with notice of the lawsuit. If you lose and the other party hires an attorney, a judgment could be entered against you for her/his attorney’s fees.

Also, remember that if the person you are suing files a counterclaim against you for money damages and you lose, a judgement could be entered against you for the defendant’s damages and court costs. Once you win, you must take steps to collect a judgment if the defendant does not pay you. Often, the defendant has no assets which can be attached, and you may not be able to collect on the judgment even though you won your case.

What happens if I am the defendant?

  • If you are sued, you are referred to as the defendant in the lawsuit.
  • After the plaintiff files a lawsuit, you will be given notice of the lawsuit or “served” by a constable or some other qualified person.
  • You then must respond to the court or “answer” by 10:00 a.m. of the Monday following ten (10) days after the day you are served. Once an answer is filed, a contested hearing is scheduled.
  • Also if you believe that the plaintiff owes you money, you can pay a small fee and file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.

What happens if I do not answer?

If you do not enter an answer within the allotted time, the plaintiff can get a default judgment from the court. You will not receive any prior notice of the hearing nor will you have an opportunity to tell your story to the court. You can file an answer after the allotted time as long as you file it before the default judgment is signed.

Preparing Your Case

What do I need to do to prepare my case?

  • Write out all the details you can recall-people, dates, places, times, then put it in outline form;
  • Gather up copies of all documentation (receipts, letters, notices, and pictures) which support your position, with extra copies for court;
  • Arrange for your witnesses to be present at the trial (you can subpoena them if you need to) or get written statements or affidavits from those who will not be present in court;
  • Write out questions you want to ask your witnesses;
  • Try to anticipate what testimony the other party will give and what you want to ask them;
  • Arrive at court on time.

What are the procedures in court?

  • The plaintiff presents their witnesses and evidence first. The defendant can cross examine each witness;
  • Next, the defendant presents witnesses and evidence. The plaintiff can cross examine each witness; and
  • The judge may ask questions at any time.
  • Each party may make a closing statement.

In response to the plans to merge the Small Claims Court with the Justice Court on January 1, 2012, the Texas Supreme Court will promulgate new Justice Court rules by May 1, 2013, so some of these procedures may change in the future.

How soon will a decision be made and can I appeal it if I do not like it?

The judge usually gives a decision immediately or within a few days of the trial. If either party is dissatisfied with the judgment, they may appeal to the County Court within ten days of the trial by posting an appeal bond. This appeal bond is twice the amount of the judgment against the loser, or an estimated amount of costs set by the court if the winner appeals. Also, one must pay a filing fee that is normally about $150. The case is then retried, from the start, by another court. It may then be appealed to the Court of Appeals.

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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.

If you have retained an attorney all correspondence such as hearing dates, resets, motions, etc.… will be sent to the attorney on file. Court clerks are not allowed to give legal advice and may only give information or accept documentation from the attorney on file.

The Travis County Law Library & Self-Help Center, located at the Ned Granger Building at 314 West 11th Street, Suite 140, First Floor, Austin, Texas 78791, has documentation and law books for assistance.

NOTE: All Justice of the Peace offices now accept civil filings electronically. You can find out more information and get started on e-filing by visiting E-File main self-help menu.

  • Evictions
  • Repair and Remedy
  • Small Claims
  • Debt Claims
  • Motions
  • Writ of Re-Entry
  • Writ of Restoration
  • Writ of Retrieval
  • Release of Judgment
  • Judgment Calculator
  • Peace Bonds
  • Expunctions

Civil Fee Schedule – Fee Increase Effective 1/1/2022

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. All eviction suits must be filed in the Justice of the Peace precinct where the property is located. You can find the precincts by searching the address on the JP Precinct Map.

Information to file suit

Appeals

A party may appeal a judgment by filing bond, making a cash deposit or filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs after the judgment is signed. See Justice Court Rules 510.9(a) to determine the timeframe to file an appeal.

Information for tenants

Video from Austin Tenants Council


More information

  • Read Eviction Defendant

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 $20,000, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any.

For information on the Tenant’s right and the Landlord’s duty, please read the Repair Rights

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.

For additional information on how to sue in Justice Court (Small Claims Court) or what to do if you are being sued, please read how to Sue in Justice Court (Small Claims Court)

Note: A copy of all documents and exhibits must be served or presented to all case parties. You will be charged for copies if you fail to supply all case parties with copies of case documents or exhibits.

Appeals

A party may appeal a judgment by filing bond, making a cash deposit or filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs after the judgment is signed. See Justice Court Rules 506.1(a) to determine the timeframe to file an appeal.

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.

If you are being sued, read Debt Claim Defendant.

Note: A copy of all documents and exhibits must be served or presented to all case parties. You will be charged for copies if you fail to supply all case parties with copies of case documents or exhibits.

Appeals

A party may appeal a judgment by filing bond, making a cash deposit or filing a Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs after the judgment is signed. See Justice Court Rules 506.1(a) to determine the timeframe to file an appeal.

If a landlord has locked a residential or commercial tenant out of leased premises in violation of the Texas Property Code Section 92.0081 and 92.009 (residential)) or Section 93.002 and 93.003 (commercial), the tenant may recover possession of the premises.

To determine venue for your case, refer to the Texas Property Code Section 92.009(b) if a residential tenancy, or Section 93.003(b) if a commercial tenancy.

If a landlord has interrupted (shut off) utility service to a residential tenant in violation of Section 92.008 of the Texas Property Code the tenant may to restore utility service.

If a current occupant is denying a person from entering their residence or former residence the justice court may issue an order authorizing a person to enter the residence to retrieve specific items of personal property which includes electronic records of financial or legal documents.
See Texas Property Code 24A.002(b)

A Release of Judgment should occur when a debtor (defendant) pays the judgment to the creditor (plaintiff). According to the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code Chapter 31.008 the payment may be made to the court if the debtor is unable to locate the creditor.

In practice, JP1 processes Release of Judgments even when the debtor is able to locate the creditor, or when the creditor wants to inform the court of the paid judgment. Technically, it is the creditor’s responsibility to submit a Release of Judgment to the debtor. JP1 should be involved with this process only when the debtor is unable to locate the creditor and the debtor has followed the process established in TCPRC 31.008.

This tool may assist you in determine how much interest is owed for a court judgment.

Disclaimer: this tool is provided as a courtesy and is not affiliated with Travis County Justice of the Peace Precinct One.
http://www.judgmentcenter.com/Calculator.htm

A peace bond is a court order designed to keep the peace by protecting a person or property from threat or harm. It requires individuals to refrain from certain offenses or activities for a specific period of time. Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 7. There is a $15.00 filing fee and costs for mailing notices and judicial orders.

Persons may expunge all records relating to the arrest of a person for a fine only offense if: the person is acquitted of the offense or the person is released and not charge is pending at least 180 days after the arrest and the person was not charged with any other offense resulting from the arrest; or the prosecutor recommends expunction before the person is tried.

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How to file a small claims lawsuit in texas

Small claims court is a public forum where people can have their legal disputes heard. Small claims cases are usually informal proceedings, where people (called litigants) can bring their claim. The small claims court process might look like this:

  • The plaintiff pays a filing fee to present the case
  • The parties may try to negotiate an agreement
  • There is a court hearing where they speak directly to the judge
  • Both sides present evidence and make arguments
  • The judge issues a verdict

The judge will read the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant’s answer, hear both sides of the case on the hearing date, and render a verdict reasonably quickly. Taking your case to a small claims court saves you the expensive and time-consuming process of a full trial.

The possible downside to small claims court is the lack of attorney representation. Many people who go to small claims court decide to represent themselves (this is called bringing your claim "pro se"), or are required to do so. If you choose to go this route, you will not receive any legal advice during the process, so the case depends on your evidence and how well you present it.

What Kinds of Cases Go to Small Claims Court?

Small claims courts are courts of "limited jurisdiction," meaning that they can only hear specific types of cases. Most small claims courts can only hear civil cases involving small amounts of money, usually around $10,000 or less. You’ll need to check with your county and state to determine the limits for your case.

Small claims courts can hear most types of civil court cases, such as:

  • Breach of contract disputes
  • Personal injury claims (such as dog bites)
  • Collection on debts or loan repayments
  • Professional negligence claims (like bad car repairs)
  • Claims regarding the return of a renter’s security deposit or personal property
  • Issues with contractors or home remodels
  • Property damage claims
  • Claims involving eviction notices or unlawful eviction
  • False arrest claims
  • Libel or slander cases
  • Counterclaims to a lawsuit

Most small claims courts do not hear:

  • Family law cases (divorce, child support issues, guardianships)
  • Name changes
  • Bankruptcy
  • Probate cases
  • Personal injury cases with serious injuries or damages

Practically anyone can bring a small claims court case or be sued in small claims court, including individuals, large corporations, and small businesses. For cases that could win a dollar amount over $10,000, you may want an attorney to bring the matter to a superior court.

The Small Claims Court: Can I Hire a Lawyer?

Many states do not allow parties to be represented by lawyers in small claims court. One of the main advantages of small claims cases is informality and inexpensiveness, so bringing a lawyer can defeat the purpose.

Some states do allow attorneys but may have additional rules and procedures on parties that choose to be represented. Regardless of whether your state allows attorneys, you are still permitted to consult with an attorney outside of court, so long as you file the complaint form and argue the case yourself.

What Happens When I File My Small Claims Court Lawsuit?

When you first file your small claims lawsuit, the court will notify the opposing party by issuing a summons to appear in court. You need to know their correct name, where the defendant lives, their phone number or contact information, and other basic information for the court forms.

You will then have to attend the court date to prove your case.

Many states provide mediators to help the parties make a last effort to resolve their disputes before taking the case to the judge.

What Should I Bring to Small Claims Court?

When your court date arrives, you should bring anything that will help prove your case or defend against the opposing party’s claims. This could include:

  • Copies of contracts you signed with the opposing party
  • Receipts for disputed purchases
  • Photos of injuries
  • Damage caused by the opposing party
  • Any witnesses whom you wish to testify on your behalf

If a witness refuses to attend, you should speak to the court clerk about issuing a subpoena to require the witness to attend.

What If the Other Party Doesn’t Show up at Small Claims Court?

If a party does not appear on the court date, the court will likely enter a "default judgment" against the absent party. This usually means the person who showed up wins the case. The party that did show can then have that judgment enforced.

In rare cases, the court may postpone the case if the other party was absent due to an actual emergency, such as a medical emergency or a car accident. The judge usually has total discretion over whether to postpone the case.

Can I Appeal a Small Claims Judgment?

You can appeal a small claim’s verdict in most states. The process and your rights to the appeal will vary depending on your state laws.

You should look into your state laws for:

  • Any time limits on filing appeals
  • Where small claims cases can be appealed
  • What different courts handle (such as the superior court or district court for the jurisdiction)

Anyone wishing to appeal a small claims case should consult their state’s laws to determine what rights they have to an appeal, if any.

These guidelines are designed to help persons who represent themselves in lawsuits become familiar with the rules and procedures which must be followed in this Court. We have tried to simplify our explanation of the procedures; however, employees of the Court cannot give legal advice nor act as your lawyer.

There are two sets of rules that control cases in federal court. One is the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A copy of these rules is available at your county’s law library or most public libraries. The other set of rules is called the Local Rules for the Eastern District of Texas. You can get a copy of these rules by going to our local rules section of the website (txed.uscourts.gov). You may also request a copy in writing and we will mail you a copy. You must try your best to comply with both sets of rules. The basic steps are as follows:

1. The Complaint: The first step in bringing a suit against someone is to file a complaint. Attached is a complaint form for your use. Just fill in the blanks, sign it and mail it to the Clerk’s office. You may either type in the required information or handwrite it neatly in black ink. If you are filing the complaint, you are the “plaintiff.” The person you are suing is the “defendant”. You must submit an original and one copy of the complaint, plus a copy for each defendant being sued.

2. Filing Fee: A filing fee of $402.00 is required to file a complaint. A person who cannot afford to pay this fee may request to proceed “in forma pauperis” (referred to as “IFP”). To proceed as IFP, a motion must be completed and submitted with the complaint.

3. Cover Sheet: A cover sheet is required to be submitted with the complaint.

4. Summons: Before your lawsuit can be tried, the defendant has to be “served” with a copy of the complaint. “Service” is complete when a “summons” and a copy of the complaint is received by the defendant. Once a defendant is served, the defendant will have to file an answer with the clerk and send a copy to you, the plaintiff. After reviewing your case, the Court will determine how service is to be accomplished. The Court may require that you do the service. If you are ordered by the Court to serve the summons, the Clerk of Court will send you an official summons bearing the Court’s seal. You will then be responsible for the service. The usual method of service is by mailing, certified and return receipt requested, a copy of the complaint with the summons. Service must be done by a person over the age of 18 years and who is not a plaintiff in the case. After service is done, the person serving the summons and complaint must complete the reverse side of the summons and return it to you. You then must return it to the Clerk. Attach the green card if service was done by certified mail. See Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for more details on the requirement of doing service.

5. Answer: The defendant has 21 days to answer unless the defendant is the United States or an employee thereof. Then the answer is due in 60 days. The answer is filed with the Clerk of Court and the plaintiff is served a copy of it. Default judgment may be granted if the defendant does not file the answer timely.

6. Certificate of Service: After a defendant has answered, any motions or other pleadings filed with the Court by either party shall bear a “Certificate of Service” which shows you have sent a copy of it to the other side. Any paper which fails to include a certificate of service will be returned to you and not filed. A certificate of service looks like this:

CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE

I hereby certify that a true and correct copy of the foregoing instrument has been forwarded by first class mail [or, delivered in person] to each attorney/party of record on this [put in date].

_______________________
[Your signature]

7. Judge: Once your case is filed, it will be assigned to a United States District Judge and may be referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for further action. The Clerk of Court will send you a notice that you may consent to the assigned magistrate judge to preside over the case and conduct the trial, by jury or non-jury. The magistrate judge will then enter the final judgment in such a case where the parties consent. Any appeal will be to the United States Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit. If you wish to communicate with the judge of your case, you must file a motion with the Clerk of Court (on 8 ½ by 11 inch white paper) and send a copy to the other side. It is improper to call or write a letter directly to the judge presiding over your case.

8. Changes of Address: Your complaint and all other papers filed with the Clerk of Court must include the plaintiff’s address and telephone number, and, of course, it must be signed. It is required that you keep the Clerk of Court, and the other side, informed of your current address and telephone number during the entire case. You will receive copies of Court orders and settings from the Clerk of Court. If we do not have your current address, your case may be dismissed.

Sincerely,
David O’Toole
Clerk of Court
U.S. District Court, Texas Eastern

Parties beginning a civil action in a district court are required to pay a filing fee set by statute. A plaintiff who is unable to pay the fee may file a request to proceed in forma pauperis. If the request is granted, the fees are waived. An application to proceed in forma pauperis is available in our forms section.

You may have a right to seek justice from the abuser through the court system where you live. When people are injured by others, they are permitted to seek what the law refers to as “damages”, in the form of money, for such things as medical bills, lost wages or employment, physical and emotional pain and suffering, and, in some cases, to punish the abuser. Each state has its own laws on these subjects, but, for the most part, they are very similar when it comes to injuries from abuse. To do this, you will most likely need the help of a lawyer. Some lawyers will take a case like this for a “contingent fee.” That means the lawyer doesn’t get paid unless you win in court, and then s/he takes some percent, usually a third, of whatever damages the judge orders. Sometimes the judge will order the defendant to pay for your attorney’s fees. Texas also has a law that allows a victim of nonconsensual image sharing (“revenge porn”) to sue the abuser in civil court for damages. 1

If your damages are below a certain amount, you may be able to file on your own in small claims court. Small claims court is a less formal type of court, and many people are able to go to small claims court without the help of an attorney.

In Texas, you may file in justice court (small claims court) on your own for anything that is $10,000 or less. If you want to sue for more, you will have to file in regular district court and may need the help of a lawyer. You may talk to the clerk of court in your county for help in filing a lawsuit in small claims court. To read more information on small claims courts in Texas, please read the How to Sue in Justice Court pamphlet by the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the State Bar of Texas.

If you need help in finding a lawyer who can take your case for a contingent fee, contact:

The threshold for a case jumps from $10,000 to $20,000.

How to file a small claims lawsuit in texas

4:16 PM on Oct 31, 2019 CDT

The Watchdog stayed out of Dallas’ new “tornado alley” for a week because I didn’t want to get in the way. The other day, I went to Preston Road and Royal Lane, but didn’t stay long.

Most certainly, I was in the way. It’s a beehive of workers’ activity. Streets are packed tight with debris. No room for tourists.

The destruction hurts your heart. I hope and pray that nobody takes advantage of storm victims. I wish that those whose homes and businesses have been fully or partially destroyed know that the worst is over and that no one will hurt them.

But — and this is where I share the latest news — if someone does hurt them, a wonderful new tool has been bestowed upon all Texans to beat back the bad guys. This new development has received almost no public attention.

When you hear what it is, you’ll quickly see that it can only help people who need help.

In one simple paragraph buried in a larger law about the court system, it states that the amount someone can sue for in justice of the peace small claims court will double from $10,000 to $20,000.

This doubling of the amount that you can sue for without a lawyer in the “people’s court” is a tremendous plus for consumers.

Inflation makes it tougher to bring a case in small claims. The last time the threshold amount was changed was about 20 years ago, when it jumped from $5,000 to $10,000, Midland County Justice of the Peace David M. Cobos says.

A $3,000 car wreck from a few years ago is now a $7,000 car wreck, he says.

Cobos, former president of the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association, fought for the increase in Austin.

alt=”Midland County Justice of the Peace David M. Cobos was one of the leaders behind the. ” width=”295″ height=”640″ />Midland County Justice of the Peace David M. Cobos was one of the leaders behind the movement to persuade state lawmakers to double the amount you can sue for in small claims court. (Courtesy photo)

“We feel like we’re the people’s court,” he says. “We want to give the public greater access rather than having to go hire an attorney and go to county or district court.”

Victims of contractor scams will benefit greatly.

With inflation, homeowners may lose $10,000 to $20,000 after signing up for home repairs with a less-than-honorable contractor. In the past, they’d be shut out of small claims. They’d need a lawyer to represent them properly in a higher court. No more.

Contractor scams, Cobos says, “are real prevalent, especially in this economy in West Texas. Oh my gosh. My caseload here has gone up because of that. Instead of buying a house, a lot of people get their homes remodeled.”

Or try to, at least.

No lawyer needed

The best reason to use small claims court is that you don’t need a lawyer. Filing a case usually costs around $200 — and if you win, the other side might have to pay. Plus, the rules of evidence are easier than in a higher court: You tell your story and prove it with documents, photographs, recordings, witnesses, whatever.

A few years back, the rules in small claims court were loosened to make it less lawyer-like for us non-lawyers.

In fact, the rules seek to ban certain lawyer tricks and traps that may work in higher courts. It’s supposed to be people-friendly.

Small claims court judges deal with financial losses from bad purchases, broken contracts, car-towing mishaps, debts, landlord-tenant battles and other disputes.

Discovering new laws

The Watchdog enjoys finding obscure state laws that haven’t received much attention.

So far this year, I’ve discovered several gems.

Now we have one that will help Texans recoup financial losses. Senate Bill 2342 — which includes the small claims changes — is good news.

Only one problem: It doesn’t take effect until next September.

Can’t come soon enough.

How to file a small claims lawsuit

Visit any Justice of the Peace office in your home county.

Learn to search for the “registered agent” of the entity you want to sue through the Secretary of State’s office in Austin.

File the suit and pay to have it served on the other party.

Prepare your case with evidence including documents, photos, recordings, videos and witnesses.

A lawyer is not required. But if you hire one to represent you, that’s acceptable.

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The clerk’s office will give you a Complaint form, or you can download it from this site. The person who is suing is the plaintiff. The person being sued is the defendant. You must know the name(s) and address(es) of the person(s) or legal entity (corporation, partnership, etc.) you are suing. If you are suing a corporation, it is best to state the correct name of the corporation on the Complaint. You can check the Web site for the Secretary of State of Ohio (http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos) to obtain the name of a corporation and the name and address of its statutory agent (appointed by the corporation to accept service of legal papers). The maximum amount of damages that can be requested in Small Claims Court is $6,000.00. If documents are attached to the Complaint, provide a complete set of the documents for each defendant.

Service

The Court will mail a copy of the Complaint to the defendant by certified mail. If the address is incorrect or service cannot be completed, the plaintiff will be notified of this and must provide the clerk’s office with a good address so the Complaint can be served on the defendant. If service is not completed, the trial cannot go forward.

Trial

The trial is conducted by the Magistrate. The trial is the only chance the plaintiff and the defendant will have to present their witnesses, documents, and any other evidence that will help them prove their case. The Magistrate will not allow either side to provide additional evidence at a later time.

Magistrate’s Decision

After considering the facts and the law, the Magistrate will issue a written Magistrate’s Decision, or a Magistrate’s Decision-Judgment Entry that is signed by both the Magistrate and Judge. This will be sent to the plaintiff and defendant.

Objections

Whether a Magistrate’s Decision or a Magistrate’s Decision-Judgment Entry is issued, either party has a right to file objections to it. Written objections must be filed within fourteen (14) days of the time-stamped date of the Magistrate’s Decision or Magistrate’s Decision-Judgment Entry, a copy of the objections must be sent by the objecting party to the other side, and the objection must state on it that a copy was sent to the other side. There is a $25.00 filing fee. A transcript of the proceedings must also be filed by the party objecting. A new trial will NOT be scheduled before the Judge.

Final Judgment

If objections are filed, the Judge thoroughly reviews the file, the Magistrate’s Decision, any written objections, and any response to the objections before ruling on the objections. The Judgment Entry containing the ruling may adopt or modify the Magistrate’s Decision, or it may be entirely different from the Magistrate’s Decision.

Appeal of Final Judgment

The final judgment made by the Judge can be appealed to the Court of Appeals. This is a technical procedure that must be done shortly after the final Judgment Entry is issued. It will probably require the services of an attorney.

Vehicle Complaints

If your complaint has to do with a motor vehicle, you probably want to bring the original title or a certified copy of it with you to the trial.

If You Obtain a Judgment

If you obtain a judgment against the opposing party, and the party does not pay you the judgment amount, court costs, and interest after the judgment is rendered, you will have to take affirmative steps to collect the judgment. The most common methods used are wage garnishments, bank account attachments, execution on personal property, and filing a lien on real property owned by the defendant. The forms for these procedures are available from the Small Claims Division of the clerk’s office. If the plaintiff is a corporation, these methods of collection must be handled by an attorney on behalf of the corporation.

Getting Information to Collect a Judgment

If the judgment is at least 30 days old and you want to take steps to collect your judgment, but you don’t know the necessary information (e.g., where the other party works, banks, etc.), you can request a Financial Information Order from the Small Claims Division of the Clerk’s office. Plaintiff corporations are permitted to request a financial information form without being represented by an attorney. There is a $25.00 filing fee. A form will be sent to the party who owes the judgment. That party must complete the form and return it to the Court.

Once the form is completed and returned to the Court, the Clerk’s office will mail a copy of it to you. The information on the form should be useful to you in collecting your judgment. If the other party does not file the form timely, you will receive copies of notices that the Court sends to them. You may not need to appear for some of these post-judgment hearings, so read your notice carefully.

Court employees cannot give legal advice. If you have any questions about your case that are not covered here, you may want to speak to an attorney.

You may contact the Medina County Lawyer Referral Service at (330) 725-9794.

Ohio Revised Code 1925.02 specifies that the Small Claims Division does not have jurisdiction in any of the following:

  • Libel, slander, replevin, malicious prosecution, and abuse of process actions
  • Actions on any claim brought by an assignee or agent
  • Actions for the recovery of punitive or exemplary damages

Chapter 1925 of the Ohio Revised Code contains details about Small Claims and the types of cases that can be heard in Small Claims. Parties are encouraged to read this chapter prior to filing or appearing in Small Claims cases.

AUSTIN, Texas — The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, and Lambda Legal today asked a Texas state court to block the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent children with medically necessary gender-affirming care.

The lawsuit names Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who recently issued a directive stating that providing gender-affirming care should be considered a form of child abuse. The suit also names DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS, as defendants. The lawsuit includes claims that these recent directives were issued without proper authority, in violation of the Texas Administrative Procedures Act, the separation of powers requirements of the Texas Constitution, and the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents.

“No family should have to fear being torn apart because they are supporting their trans child,” said Adri Pérez (they/them), policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas. “A week before an election, Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a partisan political attack that isn’t rooted in the needs of families, the evidence from doctors and the expertise from child welfare professionals. Families with trans kids in Texas have been under attack for too long. Gender-affirming health care saved my life, and other trans Texans should be able to access medically necessary, lifesaving care.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an employee of DFPS with a transgender child, her husband, and the teen herself. According to the complaint, this family has had an investigator already arrive at their house. The family has filed the lawsuit anonymously. Dr. Megan Mooney, a licensed psychologist who is considered a mandatory reporter under Texas law and cannot comply with the governor’s directive without harming her clients and violating her ethical obligations, is also a plaintiff in the suit.

“For Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, it seems the cruelty is the point,” said Lambda Legal Senior Counsel Paul Castillo (he/him). “They are joining a politically motivated misinformation campaign with no consideration of medical science and seem determined to criminalize parents seeking to care and provide for their kids, and medical professionals abiding by accepted standards of care for transgender youth. Gender-affirming care for the treatment of gender dysphoria is medically necessary care, full stop. Criminalizing that care and threatening to tear children from their families is unconscionable and terrifying, and cannot stand.”

“Our youth, our communities, will not be used as political props,” said Emmett Schelling (he/him), executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT). “We will not allow for these continued efforts to restrict access to life-saving care and criminalize families based on patently false information. To Attorney General Paxton and Gov. Abbott, we will not continue to play a sadistic role in your political theater.”

While doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to youth, including transgender youth, for decades, it has increasingly become a target of attacks from state lawmakers. After Arkansas became the first state to pass a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth last year, a federal court blocked the law from being enforced. While dozens of states have proposed laws similar to what became law in Arkansas — including some like Alabama that have proposed criminal penalties for providing gender-affirming care to youth — Texas is the only state saying providing this lifesaving care could lead to a child being removed from their family and placed in the foster care system.

“These efforts to cut off and criminalize necessary health care for transgender minors are in direct conflict with the recommendations of medical professionals and have nothing to do with what’s best for trans youth,” said Chase Strangio (he/him), deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “They may be escalating, but these attacks are not new. Trans youth need you to take the fury you have over what’s happening in Texas and share it with lawmakers in every state that is trying to make it harder for trans youth to survive.”

“Disinformation, being spread about transgender people and their healthcare, highlights, exaggerates and imagines a non-existent problem as an urgent moral emergency that must be tackled right away,” said Ricardo Martinez, (he/him), chief executive officer for Equality Texas. “It’s predictable and sad that politicians will further sow civil discord by amplifying lies about trans people to score political points. Misconstruing the law and amplifying junk science to attack innocent children and their parents is cruel — beneath contempt — and could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families.”

A court could rule as soon as Tuesday. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal, and the law firm of Baker Botts LLP.

AUSTIN, Texas — The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, and Lambda Legal today asked a Texas state court to block the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their adolescent children with medically necessary gender-affirming care.

The lawsuit names Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who recently issued a directive stating that providing gender-affirming care should be considered a form of child abuse. The suit also names DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters and DFPS, as defendants. The lawsuit includes claims that these recent directives were issued without proper authority, in violation of the Texas Administrative Procedures Act, the separation of powers requirements of the Texas Constitution, and the constitutional rights of transgender youth and their parents.

“No family should have to fear being torn apart because they are supporting their trans child,” said Adri Pérez (they/them), policy and advocacy strategist at the ACLU of Texas. “A week before an election, Gov. Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a partisan political attack that isn’t rooted in the needs of families, the evidence from doctors and the expertise from child welfare professionals. Families with trans kids in Texas have been under attack for too long. Gender-affirming health care saved my life, and other trans Texans should be able to access medically necessary, lifesaving care.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an employee of DFPS with a transgender child, her husband, and the teen herself. According to the complaint, this family has had an investigator already arrive at their house. The family has filed the lawsuit anonymously. Dr. Megan Mooney, a licensed psychologist who is considered a mandatory reporter under Texas law and cannot comply with the governor’s directive without harming her clients and violating her ethical obligations, is also a plaintiff in the suit.

“For Governor Abbott and Attorney General Paxton, it seems the cruelty is the point,” said Paul Castillo (he/him), Lambda Legal Senior Counsel. “They are joining a politically motivated misinformation campaign with no consideration of medical science and seem determined to criminalize parents seeking to care and provide for their kids, and medical professionals abiding by accepted standards of care for transgender youth. Gender-affirming care for the treatment of gender dysphoria is medically necessary care, full stop. Criminalizing that care and threatening to tear children from their families is unconscionable and terrifying, and cannot stand.”

“Our youth, our communities, will not be used as political props,” said Emmett Schelling (he/him), executive director of Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT). “We will not allow for these continued efforts to restrict access to life-saving care and criminalize families based on patently false information. To Attorney General Paxton and Gov. Abbott, we will not continue to play a sadistic role in your political theater.”

While doctors and medical organizations have been providing gender-affirming care to youth, including transgender youth, for decades, it has increasingly become a target of attacks from state lawmakers. After Arkansas became the first state to pass a ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth last year, a federal court blocked the law from being enforced. While dozens of states have proposed laws similar to what became law in Arkansas — including some like Alabama that have proposed criminal penalties for providing gender-affirming care to youth — Texas is the only state saying providing this lifesaving care could lead to a child being removed from their family and placed in the foster care system.

“Disinformation, being spread about transgender people and their healthcare, highlights, exaggerates and imagines a non-existent problem as an urgent moral emergency that must be tackled right away,” said Ricardo Martinez, (he/him), chief executive officer for Equality Texas. “It’s predictable and sad that politicians will further sow civil discord by amplifying lies about trans people to score political points. Misconstruing the law and amplifying junk science to attack innocent children and their parents is cruel — beneath contempt — and could have a devastating effect on transgender youth and their families.”

“These efforts to cut off and criminalize necessary health care for transgender minors are in direct conflict with the recommendations of medical professionals and have nothing to do with what’s best for trans youth,” said Chase Strangio (he/him), deputy director for trans justice with the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “They may be escalating, but these attacks are not new. Trans youth need you to take the fury you have over what’s happening in Texas and share it with lawmakers in every state that is trying to make it harder for trans youth to survive.”

A court could rule as soon as Tuesday. The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union Jon L. Stryker and Slobodan Randjelović LGBTQ & HIV Project, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, the ACLU of Texas, Lambda Legal, and the law firm of Baker Botts LLP.

Washington (AFP) – A court in Texas ordered the suspension Wednesday of a probe into the parents of a transgender 16-year-old girl under a legal opinion that deemed transitioning procedures as tantamount to child abuse.

Last week, Governor Greg Abbott instructed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) to investigate instances of minors receiving “sex change procedures,” which he argued “constitute child abuse under existing Texas law.”

In his order, he cited such gender transitioning procedures as “reassignment surgeries that can cause sterilization, mastectomies, removals of otherwise healthy body parts, and administration of puberty-blocking drugs.”

Such care to transgender minors, much like participation by transgender athletes in sports competitions, is the subject of extensive debate in the United States, where many conservative states have moved to adopt restrictive regulations.

Shortly after Abbott’s directive, the mother in Wednesday’s court case was suspended by her employer, the DFPS, and visited by a state investigator who sought to learn whether her child was “currently transitioning from male to female,” court documents said.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ rights organization, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the mother. On Wednesday a district court judge in Texas issued a restraining order preventing the state from investigating the parents.

According to a press release from those two organizations, the court’s ruling stops the state from acting until at least March 11, when the court will hear arguments seeking a larger block of the governor’s order.

“We appreciate the relief granted to our clients, but this should never have happened and is unfathomably cruel,” said Brian Klosterboer, an attorney with ACLU’s Texas branch, in a statement.

“Families should not have to fear being separated because they are providing the best possible health care for their children.”

US President Joe Biden, while not addressing the specific lawsuit, issued a statement Wednesday evening condemning Texas’s Republican governor for a “cynical and dangerous campaign targeting transgender children and their parents.”

Biden called the move by Abbott, who is in the middle of a reelection campaign, “government overreach at its worst.”

“Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the Governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points.”

A Texas judge has blocked the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services from investigating the family behind the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the DFPS and Governor Greg Abbott. The lawsuit hopes to end the governor’s directive to investigate parents that provide gender-affirming care to transgender children, calling such care “child abuse.”

The temporary restraining order is limited to this single family, who were being investigated by the DFPS. A hearing is scheduled for March 11 to decide whether to block the directive statewide.

In a Feb. 22 letter, Abbott ordered the DFPS to investigate gender-affirming care among youths in the state following an official declaration from state Attorney General Ken Paxton who also called it “child abuse.”

The DFPS promptly announced that it would comply with Paxton and Abbott’s directive. The department told ABC affiliate KVUE there were no investigations into such alleged “child abuse” before Abbott’s directive.

DFPS Commissioner Jaime Masters is also listed as a defendant in the complaint.

Representatives for Masters and Abbott did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment. The DFPS declined to comment.

The lawsuit, led by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, calls the move “lawless and dangerous.”

According to the complaint, Jane Doe, a DFPS employee, allegedly “was placed on leave from her employment because she has a transgender daughter with a medical need for treatment of gender dysphoria.”

Following the issuance of the gender-affirming care directive, Jane Doe had allegedly asked for clarification from her supervisor about how the Abbott letter would affect DFPS policy, the complaint read.

Jane and John Doe are the parents of 16-year-old Mary Doe, who is transgender.

According to the ACLU’s complaint, “some doctors and other providers have discontinued prescribing medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria to transgender youth” as a result of Abbott’s directive.

“The actions taken by Defendants have already caused severe and irreparable harm to families across the state of Texas, including the Doe family, and have put medical and mental health providers in the impossible position of either following their legal and ethical professional responsibilities or facing criminal prosecution or civil and professional repercussions under Texas law,” the complaint reads.

The Texas legislature has previously tried to limit gender-affirming care and legally declare it “child abuse” but it has failed to pass any of its bills into law.

“There is no doubt that these procedures are ‘abuse’ under Texas law, and thus must be halted,” Paxton said previously in a statement.

He added, “The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) has a responsibility to act accordingly. I’ll do everything I can to protect against those who take advantage of and harm young Texans.”

Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, Texas Pediatric Society, National Association of Social Workers and more have denounced the governor’s directive.

“This harmful directive leaves families seeking gender-affirming care in Texas with nowhere to turn,” Moira Szilagyi, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a statement following Abbott’s announcement. “Pediatricians could be investigated for child abuse by simply providing evidence-based, medically necessary services. Gender affirming care is not abuse. Politics has no place in the exam room. All children deserve access to the care they need.”

Five Texas district attorneys also pushed back on Abbott’s directive in a signed letter, saying they “will not irrationally and unjustifiably interfere with medical decisions made between children, their parents, and their medical physicians.”

“The Texas Attorney General’s attack on loving parents who seek medical care for their transgender children is dangerous to the health of kids in Texas and part of much larger trend of conservative officials cynically attacking LGBTQI+ youth to score political points,” a White House spokesperson told ABC News last week.