Friday, November 8, 2013


The more research I do the worse it gets. 

The Texas Government Code provides "

(2) "Statutory county court" means a county court created by the legislature under Article V, Section 1, of the Texas Constitution, including county courts at law, county criminal courts, county criminal courts of appeals, and county civil courts at law, but does not include statutory probate courts as defined by Section 3, Texas Probate Code."
You will note it does not include JP courts.  The question then why did DA Saenz seek to use a definition which clearly limits itself to Statutory county courts.
Chapter 25 of the Texas Government Code limits itself to Statutory county courts.
If the definitions were general definitions in the government code then the courts could look to the definitions for general guidance.  But the code is clear, the definitions only apply to statutory county courts.  This means you cannot use the definition either for or against the JP's having jurisdiction in family law cases because the legislature only intended the definition be used for statutory county courts.
So § 25.0002, does not help or hurt the JP's depending on how you read it because it only applies by law to statutory county courts.  So regardless of its effective date, it is meaningless to the question.
This only leaves the entire question in a bigger mess.  But what is clear, regardless of the effective date of the current § 25.0002 at some point for statutory county courts it was seen as giving these county court judges jurisdiction over delinquency cases.  The change in the law did not impact JP's, because it never applied to JP's.  My point being § 25.0002 neither helps nor hurts either side in the discussion.
Other than the family law code giving JP's authority over delinquency cases, which at least for county court law judges at some point was considered family law cases, the law does not speak directly to the issue. 
It may be simply too vague for anyone to ever know what is what.  The more I research this the more I realize that the law is basically silent or vague on definitions. 
I suspect this is why the AG is in no rush.  I think his office sees a mess with no real answer.  Personally, I think he should reject the request and allow the judges to handle the question, in the event it is brought to court.  He could say there is no clear answer, but it would be best for JP's to not sign waivers.
The funny thing is, during the 2011 legislative session, it was decided by the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Legislature that the rules concerning the JP's and how their courts function were a disaster.  Major changes were drafted with the final changes going into effect August 31, 2013.  The changes do not speak to this issue.
There was a clear intent to fix the problems, but maybe they missed this one.  It is a mess.  A mess which is potentially going to cost people problems all over Texas.
In my view, the question has many potential answers - but none which are clearly in favor or against JP's having jurisdiction to sign waivers.  The vagueness issue, thereby makes an argument of illegality impossible.  But smart money has some indication from the AG that the practice is best stopped.  Which at least in Cameron county it has stopped.


It has always bothered me the phrase ignorance of the law is no defense.  Not often, but every so often the Supreme Court will issue a 5/4 decision interpreting a criminal statute and how it applies.  My problem is, if 4 of the most brilliant legal minds in the country interpret the law differently from the other 5, then how is it fair for the average joe to be held accountable under the law?  This issue has always bothered me.  People go to jail because 5 out of 9 people say that law reads one way while the other 4 say it reads a way which means you did not break it.

Can anyone defend such a system?  Not me.


Anonymous said...

It is not about defending why she did what she did but WHAT DID ERIN DO WITH THE MONEY? Quit trying to do a smoke screen for her Bobby. We have fog lights... we could see thru the smoke.

BobbyWC said...

The smoke screen is all in your head - from square one I have said the money issue is problematic - but my research which DA Saenz agrees with is, the county cannot charge a fee. So the $276 Aurora is charging is illegal. If it is illegal for the county to charge a fee who should she give the money to - the choice is keep it, if allowed, or refund it.

Even DA Saenz agrees what JPs can charge for a wedding is based on common practice and not a statute

So what is the clear answer?

Tell my readers.

If she cannot sign the waivers it is still unclear because any judge can say 150 for a regular wedding and 175 for an expedited wedding.

If the order is void because she oculd not sign it, it is of no consequence after 30 days. But the remedy could be a mandamus. Judges get hit with mandamuses all of the time for signing void orders. It is not a crime.

If every judge who makes a mistake in application of the law were charged with a crime, then every judge in Texas would be currently being charged with a crime.

Should federal judge Yeakal resign because the court of appeals reverved his abortion decision? He got the law wrong, right - ignorant of the law - lets hang him.

This is 100% political.

The only way you get to a crime is if it is found the county can charge the $276, then you have a problem. But DA Saenz, the SA Express News and every district clerk I called said the county cannot charge a fee.

So again if the county cannot charge a fee tell mr to whom she should give the money?

Simple question - ball in your park.

Bobby WC