Local Rules of Procedure and Rules of Decorum
These rules are published to provide a uniform system for the fair, impartial, and prompt disposition of matters properly brought before the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1, Bell County. They are to be interpreted consistent with this objective.
These rules govern cases filed in the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1, Bell County, Texas. They are published pursuant to Section 27.061 of the Texas Government Code.
The Justice of the Peace Court of Bell County hear;
Civil cases in which the amount in controversy is $20,000 or less.
Eviction cases, both residential and commercial including writs of reentry.
Administrative Hearings involving revocation and suspension of driver's license, concealed handgun permits, occupational driver's license.
Criminal offenses which are punishable by fine only, both traffic and Class C Misdemeanors.
Cases involving animal cruelty and neglect.
The Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1 serves the western portion of Bell County. This includes the towns of Killeen, Harker Heights and portions of Nolanville and Belton.
The Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1 will keep a docket of scheduled hearings and trials. A weekly docket shall be available to the public for each week's proceedings. The Judge will generally be available as indicated by these rules and the calendar. In the absence, disqualification, or recusal of the Judge, it is the policy of this court to obtain a visiting judge, whenever possible, so that there will be no interruption in the work of the court. Notice of a visiting Judge will be posted as soon as is practical.
The Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1 utilizes the electronic method of selecting names of persons assigned for jury service. Jury impaneling is conducted in cooperation with the District, Municipal, and County courts.
If scheduled for jury duty, follow all instructions on the jury summons that is mailed. When appearing for jury duty, please complete the jury questionnaire (attached to the summons) and bring it to court.
All civil cases should be filed in the precinct where the defendant(s) may reside, except as otherwise provided by law. Eviction cases should be filed in the precinct where the leased premises are located.
It is the policy of the Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1, to encourage the peaceful resolution of disputes and early settlement of pending cases. The court shall determine which of its cases to refer to mediation and shall determine to which mediation service to refer a case.
Any party receiving referral to mediation has 10 days from the date of notice to file a motion objecting to the referral. If any party to a case files a motion objecting to mediation, and the court finds there is a reasonable basis for the objection, the case may be excused from the referral. If either party fails to attend mediation or if no resolution is reached, the case is to be promptly set for trial.
All civil cases are set according to the Court's calendar, with the initial hearing date being set at least 45 days after the Defendant's answer is due (14 days after service of citation).
At any time the Court may order a pre-trial conference. The Court may enter an order or orders following each pre-trial conference, which will address any applicable matters.
The Court shall be responsible for the setting of hearings and applicable notices in the Court.
Demands for Jury
A party requesting a civil jury trial shall file a written request with the Court no later than fourteen (14) days before trial. In eviction cases, the request must be filed no later that three (3) days before the trial. The jury fee is $22.00. The jury fee shall be paid upon filing the request.
Preferential settings may be obtained at the discretion of the judge.
Motions for continuance must be filed in writing. The notice and pleading requirements of law must be followed.
Matters Preliminary to Trial on the Merits
Except for motions for continuances, all motions in limine, exceptions, and all pre-trial motions and pleas in each jury case shall be presented and heard at pre-trial hearing.
For non-jury cases, all exceptions, motions, and pleas must be filed before the scheduled trial.
A party filing a motion shall deliver a copy of each pleading or motion to any opposing party and to the Court in the manner and within the time provided by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
A document may be filed with the Court by personal or commercial delivery, by mail, or electronically @eFile.TXCourts.gov.
Hearings Conducted by Telephone
Hearings in this Court may be conducted in person, or by telephone, or video conferencing, if requested in writing prior to court date and approved by the Court.
Dismissal for Want of Prosecution
The following cases are eligible for dismissal for want of prosecution on the Court's own motion:
- Cases on file for more that 180 days in which no proof of service has been filed with the Court;
- Cases that have been on file for more than 6 months that are not set for trial and have had no filings or settings within 180 days;
- Any other case designated by the Court.
The Court Clerk shall give notice that certain cases will be dismissed for want of prosecution.
Only the Court may make a setting in cases set for dismissal.
In the event the Court retains a case, the case will be set for trial at the convenience of the Court and the Court will notify the parties of the setting.
References in these procedures to a "case" include all pending claims in the case.
Drafts of Judgments and Orders
So far as practicable, every draft of a judgment or order to be signed by the judge in the case should be approved as to form by attorneys for all parties before it is presented to the judge.
Motions to Withdraw as Attorney
Except as provided in Rules 8 and 10 Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a Motion to Withdraw will be granted without a hearing if the moving attorney:
Files written consents to the withdrawal signed by all parties or their attorneys, and
Includes in the Motion a specific statement of the circumstances that justifies the withdrawal and the circumstances that prevent the moving attorney from obtaining the client's written consent; and
Files a statement of the last known mailing address of the client.
When any date mentioned in these rules is on a Court holiday, the applicable date shall be the first business day following the holiday.
Authorization to Serve Citation (Rule 103)
A person wishing to be authorized by written order of the court to serve citations and other notices may file a written affidavit in application for authorization. Upon approval of the application the Court may authorize service by the applicant in all appropriate suits pending in the Court. Anyone filing return of service under such authorization shall also file an affidavit that he/she is not a party to and has no interest in the suit. The affidavit may be part of the verified return required by Rule 107.
Justice Court cases should be filed in the precinct where the offense is alleged to have occurred.
Offenses alleged to have been committed in more than one precinct may be filed in any precinct that the offense or portion of the offense is alleged to have occurred.
Unless otherwise directed, defendants will appear or contact the Justice Court in which the case is filed according to the date and location written on the citation or summons. Subsequent contact with the Court will be scheduled by the Court.
Court Clerks are authorized to give the following settings; all others must be approved by the judge.
Pre-TrialAll Cases will be set for a pre-trial unless the defendant waives his right to pre-trial. Special pre-trial settings must be approved by the Court. Pre-trial motions must be filed on or before the day the pre-trial is scheduled and served on the Assistant County Attorney assigned to this court.
Trial before the CourtAll cases shall be tried when set unless a written State or defense Motion for Continuance is granted.
Jury TrialDefendant and his/her attorney (if applicable) shall appear at the scheduled jury setting. State and defense must either announce ready for trial or file a written Motion for Continuance. If the defendant waives jury at the docket call, a written waiver signed by counsel and /or defendant must be presented.
Plea of Guilty or Nolo Contendere
Defendants may enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere at any time until judgment is rendered, with or without a plea agreement. The Justice Court shall maintain a list of "standard" fines for various offenses. Defendants entering either of these pleas may address the judge regarding punishment.
Appointment of Counsel
Indigent defendants are not entitled to request a court appointed attorney, as a matter of law, when charged with a fine only offense.
Motions to Withdraw or Substitute
An attorney becomes attorney of record in a misdemeanor case by listing his/her name on pleadings or motions involving the case. He/she remains the attorney of record until submitting a motion to withdraw as counsel.
An attorney's Motion to Withdraw may be submitted to the Court at any time in writing.
Motions to Substitute Counsel will be granted without a hearing so long as the scheduling of trial will not be delayed by the change in counsel and the information is submitted in writing.
RULES OF DECORUM
Immediately before the scheduled Court session, the bailiff/clerk shall direct all people to their seats. As the Judge enters the courtroom everyone shall stand and remain standing until instructed to take their seats by the Judge.
When the judge announces a recess, everyone seated in the courtroom, shall rise and remain standing until the Judge exits the courtroom.
In reconvening, everyone shall rise and remain standing until instructed to take their seats by the Judge.
When a jury trial is recessed, the jury shall exit the courtroom and be escorted to the docket room, by the bailiff/clerk. Prior to the court reconvening, the jury will be escorted back into the courtroom by the bailiff/clerk. When the Court is reconvened, everyone shall rise and remain standing until instructed to take their seats by the Judge.
General Rules of Courtroom Conduct
All participants in a trial shall promptly enter the courtroom when instructed.
All Rules of Courtroom Conduct shall apply to everyone in the courtroom. Failure to comply may result in removal from the courtroom, or in some cases, contempt of court charges.
In the courtroom there shall be:
no tobacco use including snuff, smokeless tobacco, to include e-cigarettes.
no chewing gum
no excessively short pants, bare midriffs, sleeveless shirts, tank tops, clothing displaying offensive wording or pictures, or any other apparel that may be considered offensive
no reading of newspapers, e-readers, or other information media
all electronic devices shall be turned off or placed on silent mode, except when being used by a party to the case and such device is needed to present evidence. Any misuse of such devices will result in confiscation of the device(s) until Court is concluded
no bottles, cups, or beverage containers
no propping of feet on tables or chairs
no talking or noise that interferes with Court proceedings
DO NOT LEAN ON JUDGE'S BENCH
The judge, attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants, and other officers of the Court will refer to and address each other respectfully and impersonally. Appropriate titles and surnames shall be used, not first names and nicknames.
All officers of the Court should dress appropriately in Court session.
Attorneys should observe the letter and spirit of all canons of ethics including those dealing with discussing of cases with the media, and those concerning improper ex parte communications with the judge.
Attorneys should advise their clients and witnesses of the applicable Local Rules of Decorum.
All objections, arguments, and other comments by counsel shall be directed to the judge or jury and not to opposing counsel.
While another attorney is addressing the judge or jury, an attorney should not stand except to make an appropriate motion, request, or objection to the Court.
Attorneys should not approach the bench without leave of Court and must never lean on the bench.
Attorneys shall remain seated at the counsel table except when the judge enters or leaves, when addressing the judge or jury, and whenever it may be proper to handle documents, exhibits, or other evidence.
Click Here for a copy of these rules.