TMCEC often receives requests for information about dual office-holding. If you ever encounter these concerns, we first strongly suggest that you contact the city attorney with employment questions. In the end, legal advice about who a city employs and how should come from your own attorney, who may be familiar with confidential matters to which TMCEC cannot be privy.
We can direct you to an excellent resource through the Texas Municipal League, optimistically titled “Dual Office Holding and Incompatibility Laws Made Easy.” Authored by Assistant General Counsel Zindia Thomas and Law Clerk Paloma Dominguez, the publication is available here (also embedded below). While it does not cover every possible permutation of the question of who may be a judge, it does an excellent job of laying out the basics and giving a foundation on the intent behind Texas dual office holding law. The fact that there are so many Attorney General Opinions related to dual office holding shows that every situation is unique.
TMCEC staff attorneys answer legal questions on the 800 line (1.800.252.3718) every weekday. Below is a question received this week, a summary of TMCEC’s response, and some helpful resources.
800 Line Question: Our court has a backlog of violations issued to corporations and associations. Is it true that we cannot issue warrants for corporations? If so, how do we require appearance and how do we enforce judgments?
TMCEC: The rules for serving corporations are in Chapter 17A of the Code of Criminal Procedure. While warrants for corporations are not prohibited in so many words, no individual may be arrested upon a complaint against a corporation or association, which has the same practical effect. CCP 17A.03(b). However, if a corporation is served through its registered agent for service of process and either fails to appear in response to a summons or appears by counsel and refuses to enter a plea, the corporation is deemed to appear for all purposes and to have entered a plea of not guilty. CCP 17A.04. The court may proceed with trial, judgment, and sentencing in absentia. Enforcing a judgment against a corporation may present an issue given Article 17A.03(b)’s prohibition. However, recall that a municipal court has civil authority to enforce a judgment. CCP 45.047. In addition, the court is instructed to notify the Secretary of State of convictions once they are final and unappealable. CCP 17A.09.
If a charge against a corporate defendant is in your court, the TMCEC Bench Book is a great place to start. Every page of the Bench Book is accessible online, and here (available at the link as well as embedded below) is the chapter specific to Corporations and Associations.
Mark Goodner sat down with Regan Metteauer to discuss TMCEC’s upcoming Mental Health Conference
MG: Regan, the Mental Health Conference is quickly approaching. If I’m not mistaken, this will be our fourth Mental Health Conference—they began in 2016 and we have had them every two years. For those that have never been, can you tell us a little bit about the conference and why someone may want to attend?
RM: That’s correct, Mark. The inaugural conference in 2016 was born out of collaboration. Because it was the first conference of its kind for TMCEC and because of the importance of the topic, we reached out to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) for guidance on the landscape of mental health in Texas and the United States. Patti Tobias, a state court liaison from NCSC, suggested we convene individuals from each point in the criminal justice system (law enforcement, behavioral health, jail, court, etc.) to help us plan our first agenda. That first planning meeting taught us the importance of gathering together, sharing information and perspectives, and making connections. And that really is what the conference is all about. It’s not a matter of if mental health will have an impact on a municipal court, it’s when. One in five adults in the U.S. have a mental illness. Our courts see the greatest number of defendants compared to other Texas courts. Because of the sheer volume and subject matter jurisdiction (e.g, disorderly conduct, public intoxication—which can be manifestations of mental illness) of cases filed in municipal court, attendees will be able to apply what they learn at this conference on a regular basis.
MG: This will take place at the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel on August 18-19. I should also mention that this conference is open to municipal judges, magistrates, clerks, court administrators, and prosecutors. Am I leaving anyone out?
RM: Juvenile case managers are welcome, too. We will have a session on the second day focusing on children and schools. There will be something for every attendee on the agenda. Mental health affects various aspects of a case beginning at magistration all the way through disposition. At each point in a case, there are things we can do to improve the court’s response to mental illness. Not only that, mental health affects judges and court staff personally or vicariously. We have a session on mental health and well-being for judges and court personnel that I hope all attendees benefit from hearing.
MG: I have always been impressed with this program, and we often get to see new topics and different faculty than are at many of other programs. Is there any topic or speaker that you are especially interested in seeing this year?
RM: I’m so excited about this year’s agenda. It would be difficult to choose one topic or speaker because I can’t wait to see all of them. I do want to mention a couple of new sessions TMCEC has never offered before. The first is Community Response: Suicide Awareness and Prevention. This is a topic that is crucial to talk about but sometimes avoided. It will be applicable to all attendees as community members. The second is a session on peer support. Due to the growing evidence around the practice over the past decades, peer support is now considered an evidence-based practice. Though the concept has been around since the 1970’s, our courts may have never heard of it. Last month, the National Judicial Taskforce to Examine State Courts’ Response to Mental Illness, with funding from the State Justice Institute, released a paper on peers in courts, which will be addressed in this presentation. I’m eager for our courts to learn more about peer support.
MG: Thanks for the information, Regan. Those interested can see the agenda here. If anyone is interested in registering, that can be done here: https://register.tmcec.com. The Mental Health Conference registration fee is $50 which includes up to two nights’ hotel stay (for eligible participants). Participants can obtain 12 hours of judicial education or clerk certification credit. CLE up to 10.5 hours is offered to attorneys ($100 CLE reporting fee).
Any municipal judge or magistrate has certainly heard about or discussed all of the bail-related changes as a result of S.B. 6 passing in August of 2021. TMCEC and other judicial training entities have offered and continue to offer training that satisfies Art. 17.024 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, as added by S.B. 6. But how long do magistrates have?
Magistrates should take care to remain mindful of the compliance deadlines, as listed in Art. 17.024(c) and (c-1). There are two different deadlines depending on when a magistrate takes (or took) office. Generally, magistrates are in compliance with the training requirements if they successfully completes an approved 8-hour training course not later than the 90th day after the date the magistrate takes office.
Most municipal judges that TMCEC trains currently, however, fall under an exception allowing magistrates who were serving on April 1, 2022 to be considered in compliance by completing the training course not later than December 1, 2022.
Any magistrate who has taken office on April 2, 2022 or after should be aware that the clock has begun! Thankfully, TMCEC’s course is available on demand.
TMCEC offered its approved course, Magistrate Duties: Setting Bail in Criminal Cases, on June 15, 2022. The course was then made available on demand on the Online Learning Center (OLC) in late June. The course is a sequenced 8 hours of instruction, approved by OCA. It consists of the following presentations:
1. The Changing Landscape of the Law of Bail in Texas: Overview & Case Processing
2. The Basics: Bail and Bonds in Texas
3. Personal Bonds: Utility and Limits
4. Constitutional Concerns, Case Law, and the Texas Magistrate
5. Mandatory and Discretionary Bond Conditions
6. Bail and Individuals with Mental Illness and Intellectual Disabilities
7. Documentation and Reporting: Roles and Responsibilities of Court Personnel
8. A TMCEC Primer on Criminal Record History Information and Court Access
There is no registration fee for the event. Attendance counts for 8 hours of Judicial Education and Clerk Certification credit. TMCEC will report to OCA the names of the magistrates who have completed the full 8-hour training course. This event is approved for up to 7 hours of CLE. The CLE reporting fee is $50 and can be purchased when registering.
1. Go to register.tmcec.com.
2. Enter your TMCEC username and password and click Login. If you do not have your TMCEC login information, call us at 800.252.3718.
3. Once you’re logged in, select the OLC tab from the options at the top of the page.
4. Then select: SB6 Course: Magistrate Duties Setting Bail in Criminal Cases
5. Follow the steps to register for the course.
6. This will automatically redirect you to the appropriate webpage to complete the course.
7. Check out instructions under the “Announcements” tab.
Mark Goodner sat down with Ned Minevitz to discuss the 2022 Impaired Driving Symposium.
MG: Ned, we are two weeks away from the judges Impaired Driving Symposium (IDS). It is in many ways a different program from TMCEC’s typical offerings. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with it, could you tell us a little bit about IDS?
NM: IDS is unique in that TMCEC co-hosts it with the Texas Justice Court Training Center, Texas Center for the Judiciary, and Texas Association of Counties. As such, judges from multiple levels of the Texas judiciary attend. This makes for an excellent networking opportunity. I would particularly recommend this conference to judges that sign blood warrants and set bond conditions on impaired driving cases. The faculty does a great job illustrating the role these procedures play in the lifespan of an impaired driving case. I think it is valuable for municipal judges that perform these functions to understand them as part of a broad context. Conversing with county judges that preside over DWI trials really helps achieve this.
MG: Thanks, Ned. This year’s symposium takes place August 15-16 in Bee Cave at the Sonesta Hotel. Do we still have spots available? If so, how can someone register?
MG: This is also a program funded by TxDOT and there are many expenses that are covered, right? This would not be as costly to city budgets as many other programs, isn’t that true?
NM: That is absolutely correct. TxDOT recognizes the critical role judges play in impaired driving prevention, so they have generously offered to reimburse travel and meals (within state and federal limits) for participants. Participants can receive a free night at the Sonesta Hotel as long as they live and work at least 30 miles from the conference site. For attorneys, CLE reporting is also free courtesy of TxDOT.
MG: That’s good to know. Finally, are there any topics or speakers you are especially excited about this year?
NM: Everything on the agenda excites me, but if I had to identify one topic, it would probably be the Search & Seizure class presented by Judge David Newell from the Court of Criminal Appeals. He brings levity and humor that really take his presentations to the next level.
MG: Judge Newell is always great. That will be a good session. Thanks for the information, Ned. We hope to see a good number of municipal judges there!
TMCEC has fielded questions regarding the authority of municipal courts to implement and use electronic filing, or e-filing, systems. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Texas and Court of Criminal Appeals issued an order, Misc. Docket No. 17-9039, requiring certain courts to adopt e-filing procedures. While municipal (and justice) courts are not included as requiring implementation, a careful reading of this order reveals that it certainly may apply to municipal courts. We would particularly direct attention to three of the rules.
First, although municipal courts are not required to do so, there is express permission to opt in and adopt an e-filing system for criminal cases.
Rule 1.1. The rules govern electronic filing of documents with the clerk in criminal cases in appellate courts, district courts, statutory county courts, and constitutional county courts… A justice court or municipal court may implement criminal case electronic filing. If a justice court or municipal court implements an electronic filing system, the system must comply with these rules.
Second, if a municipal court opts in, it must follow the rules set out in 2017. Once e-filing is implemented, all attorneys must, and all other defendants may, file electronically. However, courts may not reject paper filings from unrepresented parties.
Rule 1.2. … Once a court [implements] electronic filing, attorneys must electronically file all documents, pleadings, and materials filed in that court through the electronic filing portal provided or approved by the Office of Court Administration, except where these rules or other Texas law allow or mandate non-electronic (paper) filing. Attorneys must not file documents through any alternative electronic document filing transmission system, except in the event of an emergency or where these rules provide for the use of the alternative filing transmission system. Unrepresented parties may electronically file documents but it is not required.
Third, the rules specify what e-filing providers are acceptable, generally.
Rule 2.1. Electronic filing must be done through the electronic filing manager established by the Office of Court Administration and an electronic filing service provider certified by the Office of Court Administration or through another electronic filing portal approved by the Office of Court Administration.
The Office of Court Administration (OCA) currently contracts with Tyler Technologies to provide an e-filing system. Although OCA is in the process of re-procuring and restructuring this process, it appears that the new system will also be hosted by Tyler Technologies. Additional information is available here.
The system also allows filing through another portal approved by OCA. Courts considering adopting e-filing should contact OCA for additional information.
Last week, TMCEC hosted its annual Court Security Conference here in Austin. More than 80 court professionals from around the state joined together to hear about and discuss court security from many different angles.
In a session called The State of Court Security in Texas from Hector Gomez, Texas Office of Court Administration’s (OCA) Security Director, he mentioned that OCA has sent a survey to all 254 county courthouses in Texas regarding their court security committees. This survey has not yet been sent to municipal courts, but it will be in the coming months (likely late 2022 or early 2023).
If your court security committee has lost momentum or if it has yet to really take off, now would be a great time to get everything going.
As a reminder, the Judge Julie Kocurek Judicial and Courthouse Security Act of 2017 added Section 29.014 to the Government Code requiring municipal judges to establish a court security committee. To read more about establishing the committee read or download the document below.
If you have questions or need assistance, TMCEC is here. Additionally, Hector Gomez and Nicholas Barsetti with OCA are amazing resources. Below is a description of how they may be able to help you and your court.
Yesterday (May 25, 2022), The Supreme Court of Texas issued the 51st Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster. The 51st Order renews the 49th Order with some amendments.
Of note, all courts in Texas may, without a participant’s consent allow or require anyone involved in any hearing or other proceeding of any kind to participate remotely such as by teleconferencing, videoconferencing or other means. Courts may continue to use reasonable efforts to conduct proceedings remotely. While criminal cases where confinement in jail or prison is a possible punishment, remote jury proceedings may not proceed over the objection of the defendant or the prosecutor. In all other cases (including municipal and justice court proceedings), remote jury proceedings cannot be held unless the court has considered on the record or in a written order any objection or motion related to moving forward with the jury proceeding at least seven days before the proceeding as soon as practicable if the objection is made within seven days of the proceeding.
Presiding judges continue to be encouraged to adopt minimum standard health protocols for court participants and the public and have the authority to mandate compliance with the protocols.
This order is effective June 1, 2022 and expires August 1, 2022, unless extended.
You can access the order here and a copy is inserted below.
On November 23, 2021, the Texas Supreme Court issued the 45th Emergency Order. As of today, it is not accessible on the txcourts.gov website and has not, to my knowledge, been emailed out to court personnel by OCA. It was emailed to attorneys by the state bar, however. The pdf of the 45th order has been added to end of this post for all who have not seen it.
Of note, all Texas courts are permitted to use teleconferencing through February 1, 2022. While courts may continue to use reasonable efforts to hold proceedings remotely, remote jury proceedings must not be conducted unless the court has considered on the record (or in a written order) any objection or motion related to moving forward with a jury proceeding at least seven days before the jury proceeding or as soon as practicable if the objection or motion is made or filed within seven days of the jury proceeding.
Additionally, municipal and justice courts may suspend or modify trial-related and pretrial hearing deadlines through March 1, 2022. Despite this, municipal and justice courts are to “move swiftly to return to regular pretrial and trial proceedings as soon as reasonably feasible before March 1, 2022.”
Stay tuned to see if more court guidance documents are to come from OCA.
Mark Goodner sat down with Ryan Turner and Elizabeth Rozacky to discuss the upcoming “Fundamentals” Seminar.
MG: When I first started at TMCEC, I was able to attend what was the last Low Volume Seminar of 2008. After that, we kept the seminar in the archives so-to-speak for a dozen years. Thankfully, we brought it back in AY 2020. There have been some tweaks to the program. What has changed and what has stayed the same?
RKT: Well, of course, I guess the main thing is the name of the seminar. The focus is still on basic, yet important, tenets of constitutional criminal procedure. However, one of the things we learned from audience feedback is that while there is a need and an appreciation in courts that adjudicate a relatively low volume of cases for the seminars content, the seminar is not just for judges and clerks who work in such courts. Constitutional law is the glue that makes criminal procedure stick. Its importance is not limited to “low volume courts.”
ER: At its core, the program has always been a refresher on the fundamentals of constitutional law and how those concepts apply to municipal courts. Courts of all sizes can benefit from revisiting these concepts, so we’re excited to open up this opportunity to more participants.
MG: I remember it having a wonderful overview (with some specific diving in, as well) of the constitutional foundations that support so many of our practices in municipal court. In the past, it was geared toward non-attorney judges and clerks (hopefully with teams from the same city). I think this would be a wonderful program for a judge that has been through the New Judges program in the last handful of years. Who else would this program be perfect for?
RKT: Absolutely, I highly recommend this seminar for folks who recently attended either the New Judges or New Clerks Seminar. While the curriculum is intended for judges and clerks who have not attended law school and who are not lawyers, we have also had attorneys attend. They said it was a fun and fantastic way to take inventory of their understanding of fundamental constitutional issues in criminal law.
Similarly, I think this seminar offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for clerks and court administrators to develop a better understanding of how the constitution colors our procedures and practices.
ER: Ditto! I often hear from folks who feel they only started to understand their court after a year or two on the job (long after they finished the New Judges or New Clerks curriculums). This program is a great way to get back to basics and continue learning.
MG: I love the model that provides the same faculty over the entire 12 hours. It’s quite a team of Judge Robin Ramsay, Judge Gary Ellsworth, Ryan Turner, and Elizabeth Rozacky. Elizabeth and Ryan, what do you like about this format and how does it feel to be part of this special team?
ER: I love being on this team. There’s such a wide range of experience in the room with judges from small towns and big cities alike. But I’m always impressed by the amount of pure practical knowledge this faculty brings. Judges and clerks can come away from the course with fresh eyes and real tools to apply to their day-to-day court practice.
RKT: I love collaborating with Robin, Gary, and Beth. I also love the format. The teaching is collaborative and conversational. The instructional strategy is engaging. The course materials consist of a lot of interactive notes and wealth of research materials. I believe that judges, clerks, and court administrators who attend this particular seminar leave with a deeper appreciation of the law. We are so lucky to get to bring this event to Laredo and I hope court personnel throughout Texas, but particularly in South Texas will take advantage of this opportunity.
This is the last time it will be offered in South Texas and it is one of TMCEC’s best seminars. Don’t miss out.
The next Fundamentals program takes place on November 3-4, 2021 in Laredo. Space is still available for judges, clerks, and court administrators. To read more about the program, see the excerpt from the Fall Academic Bulletin below. Register today! Financial aid is available. If you have questions, call 800-252-3718.