New Rules—Do They Apply?

On November 1, 2022, the Office of Court Administration (OCA) announced via email that the Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals approved amendments to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure (TRCP), Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure (TRAP), and Texas Rules of Judicial Administration (TRJA). These changes, among other things, relate to certain courts providing their local rules, forms, and standing orders to OCA. Beginning January 1, 2023, such rules, forms, and standing orders are not effective unless published on OCA’s website. Following OCA’s email, TMCEC fielded multiple questions from municipal courts inquiring whether the amendments applied to them. It is TMCEC’s view that they do not.

Rule 2 of the TRCP states that the TRCP applies to “procedure in the justice, county, and district courts.” Rule 1.1 of the TRAP states that the TRAP applies to “procedure in appellate courts and before appellate judges and post-trial procedure in trial courts in criminal cases.” While the TRJA applies to municipal courts, its recent amendments are only meant to implement the changes to the TRCP and TRAP.

Although a reading of the expansive language of these changes may suggest they could apply to municipal courts, TMCEC has historically maintained that the TRCP generally do not apply to municipal courts because municipal courts are not included in Rule 2. This, however, could be an evolving procedural area. Municipal judges and court personnel have often asked: “If the TRCP do not apply to us, what rules govern?” Approaches to civil proceedings vary in municipal courts throughout Texas—some have promulgated local rules, some choose to follow the TRCP, and some do neither.

A TMCEC Civil Rules Workgroup recently concluded a lengthy review of the civil procedures that apply to justice courts as a basis for the development of civil rules governing certain enforcement actions commenced by municipalities in civil cases over which municipal courts have jurisdiction. TMCEC shared the proposed rules with municipal judges and prosecutors to solicit feedback for the workgroup. After reviewing the feedback, the workgroup submitted proposed rules to a subcommittee of the Supreme Court Advisory Committee. Stay tuned to see what, if anything, comes to pass regarding new rules or new application of existing rules to certain civil proceedings in municipal courts.

While TMCEC does not conclude that the amendments OCA publicized last week apply to municipal courts, they (or comparable ones) could in the future.

Published by markgoodner

General Counsel & Director of Education, TMCEC

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