Justices of the Peace
Step 1. Decide if you are going to sue the Defendant in Justice Court or Small Claims Court.
NOTE: You cannot file suit in either the Justice Court or Small Claims Court if your claim is for more than $10,000. Instead, you will file in a County or District Court.
The information on “Which Court to File?” outlines the differences between the courts. Please read this information carefully before deciding in which court to file.
Step 2. Complete the form called “Plaintiff’s Original Petition.”
- Provide a daytime phone number and notify the Court immediately of changes in your address or phone number.
Be as specific as you can about the named Defendant and the capacity in which the Defendant is being sued. Your failure to properly name the Defendant could result in your losing your lawsuit or being unable to collect on a judgment. The three most common legal entities are:
- Individual (example: John Doe)
- Sole Proprietor or Partnership (example: John Jones dba Sparkle Cleaners)
- Corporation (example: Superior Builders, Inc.)
- For Assumed Names or DBAs (“Doing Business As”) information, contact the County Clerk’s Office at 512-854-9188. Ask for the name, phone number, and address of the owner or partners
- For Corporation Names and Agents for Service information, contact the Secretary of State Charter Division at 512-463-5555. Ask for the name and address of the registered agent.
Step 3. File the Plaintiff’s Original Petition and pay the court costs/filing fees.
Step 4. Services of Process. A citation attached to your filed Petition will be served on the Defendant by a Constable or Sheriff’s officer. The Citation tells the Defendant the deadline for answering the lawsuit. You should receive notice of the date that the Defendant was served. The Defendant’s deadline to answer the Petition is 10 a.m. on the Monday following 10 days after the date of service.
Step 5. Default Judgment or Contested Hearing: Your case is decided.
If the Defendant does not file an Answer to your Petition within the allotted time, you may receive a “Default Judgment.” A Default Judgment means that a short hearing will be held before the Judge without notice to the Defendant.
- It is your responsibility to notify the Court in writing to schedule a time for your Default Hearing.
- Prepare your documents and testimony in advance to show the judge exactly how you arrived at the amount of damages that you are claiming.
The Defendant can file an answer with the Court at any time before the judgment is entered. This answer will entitle the Defendant to a “Contested Hearing.” If a Contested Hearing is held, the Plaintiff has the burden of proving his or her claims to the Court.
- The Court determines if the case should go to mediation or set for a trial before the Court.
- The Court will consider only testimony and other evidence available in the Courtroom at the time of the trial.
- Have copies of all the documents you intend to use at the hearing available for the Court and Defendant.
- Be aware that notarized statements from individuals, although admissible, have little value compared to live testimony.
- Involuntary witnesses may need to be subpoenaed (ordered to appear in court).
Step 6. Judge’s Decision.
Step 7. Collection of the Judgment (if any).
DISCLAIMER: This is general information only concerning uncontested procedural matters. It does not purport to cover substantive law or address the merits of your lawsuit and is not a substitute for sound legal advice from an attorney. The Court Clerks are not attorneys and are prohibited from discussing the facts of your case or answering any legal questions.