By: Judge, Claudia Laird
September 1 marks a change in our Justice of the Peace Courts in Texas. Due to legislation passed last year the amount a person can sue for in Justice of the Peace Courts increases from $10,000 to $20,000. This change will surely increase the caseload all our JP Judges handle, which is already over ten thousand cases per year each in Montgomery County. You may be asking yourself if this increase effects Small Claims Courts? If so, you will be surprised to hear that Small Claims Court was done away with during legislative sessions of years past leaving the JP Court as the only remedy for those who do not want the rigors of procedure required in the higher courts.
Montgomery County has five excellent JP Judges. Judge Wayne Mack presides over Precinct 1 which is comprised of most of Montgomery. Judge Matt Masden presides over Precinct 5 which covers some of Magnolia. Judge Trey Spikes presides over Precinct 2 which is comprised of most of Conroe. Judge Matt Beasley presides over Precinct 3 which covers some of Magnolia, Spring and The Woodlands. Judge Jason Dunn covers Precinct 4 which includes those cities on the 59 corridor as well as some of Conroe.
JP Courts handle several types of cases. On the criminal side Class C Misdemeanors, which are comprised mostly of traffic offenses, are filed in JP Courts. JP Courts are also where parents end up when their minor children are not regularly attending school. JP Courts are where evictions are filed and where animal seizure cases take place in the instance of animal cruelty. Finally, JP Courts are most known for handling “small claims” civil cases. These are the cases made famous by Judge Wapner and more recently Judge Judy. The appeal of JP Court, is that most of the procedural rules which cause difficulties for those without attorneys in higher courts do not apply in JP Court. People can simply come in and tell the judge what happened in their case to get a ruling. The public will also find a court staff at the JP level that is very accustomed to guiding those without attorneys through the process of filing and service. Some JP Courts even provided forms for the public to utilize.
In the days of Judge Wapner a person could only file for damages of up to $5,000 in JP Court. The trend that continues to increase caseloads in JP Court is a reflection of the good work these courts do in our community and kudos to the legislature for making these courts more accessible to the public.