Probably the most befuddling and misunderstood position in the County system is the JP job.
I am on call 24/7/365. Personally, I take approximately 9 days a year off, (3 at a time) for vacation. I am fortunate to have my family nearby and grab any spare moments I have with them.
Precinct 2 carries the highest caseload in Hays County. My office team has kept up with the growth effectively and efficiently, and has not requested another staff member for at least the last 6 years.
The duties of a Justice of the Peace/Magistrate, are many and varied. I can list some of them, but never all.
Each day is exciting and new, never boring or repetitive.
The New Court rules for Justice court include, but are not limited to, 4 different areas. The Supreme Court changes have made it so much more pro se friendly. They were passed in February of 2013, but not in effect until Sept. 1, 2013. My clerks and I have been studying them fervently and are ready to implement.
- Justice Court Cases
- Debt Claim Cases
- Repair and Remedy Cases
All rules for the courts can be found at http://www.co.hays.tx.us/index.php/justice-system-courts/justice-of-the-peace/
Our Criminal caseload is probably what most are familiar with: They are fine-only cases.
Traffic cases, Minor alcohol cases, simple assault, Disorderly Conduct, minor tobacco, Theft <$50, Gang recruitment, and Failure to attend School cases (compulsory state attendance law).
Hot Check cases are Civil, with a criminal fine attached.
Each of the JPs in Hays County have "specialty cases" and fortes. I conduct all of the property hearings in this court along with "normal" duties.
Last year alone, I saw approximately 600 minors, (under 18, aside from alcohol cases). The most prevalent were FTAS (Failure to Attend School). Over the last 15 years, I have written deferred disposition orders and have used approximately 15-20 different resources to help the young people in our community strive toward a successful adult life.
I have a little bit of every code to learn for this position: Health and Safety, Education, Penal Code, Parks and Wildlife, and many others.
The Magistrate portion is a totally different aspect with many duties. We have the same "authority" for the most part as State Supreme Court Magistrates. All Judges are Magistrates.
I conduct Inquest investigations. This is what the media calls "pronouncing someone deceased". The true investigation is not begun until "pronouncement" is done by a medical professional. My job is to DETERMINE MANNER AND CAUSE OF DEATH. This is sometimes a very long process depending on the circumstances. It begins with physically going to a death scene, collecting reports and info from Law enforcement agencies, families, physicians, sometimes coroners, and other sources that will help in the end, to Certify the Cause of death. An entirety of an inquest can take up to 6 weeks depending on the circumstance.
"Jail Duty" - There are 6 JPs and 2 Municipal Judges that participate. Pct. 1, Place 1 JP is the "main magistrate". She does it 5 days a week. The rest of us have 3 schedules that I have taken on the duty of writing for the last 10 years. We alternate weekends, Holidays, and Alternate Citation (class B and one class A low risk misdemeanor cases). I also am the Municipal Judge for the City of Buda, so do "double duty"). That's approximately 10 weekends a year, 3 Holidays and 4 AC days.
We issue non-evidentiary search warrants, all level criminal warrants for all Law Enforcement agencies, property seizure warrants, and other random subpoenas. Magistrate duties are all mine. I don't expect my clerks to help with these. They have plenty of other obligations to meet.
Of course there are weddings. They are totally optional. I have chosen to do as many as possible in order to donate all funds to the community. I am very proud of this decision, and donate at least $10,000/year to local charities and fundraisers. (I can guarantee I don't make the much on weddings, but it's a trademark I won't give up) Giving back to the community that has elected me has become my mission.
I spend a lot of volunteer time in other areas that are addressed under "Accomplishments" on this site.