History of the Justice of the Peace in Texas
The office of the Justice of the Peace was created by the Texas Constitution in 1876. Originally the court’s jurisdictional limits were $200.00. The Judge presides over Criminal Class C Misdemeanors and a Civil Court. Class C Misdemeanors include, but are not limited to offenses found in the Traffic Code, Penal Code, Health & Safety Code, Education Code, Parks & Wildlife Code, and the Alcohol & Beverage Code. The Judge presides over a Civil Justice Court with a jurisdictional limit of $10,000 and a Small Claims Civil Court with a jurisdictional limit of $10,000.
The Judge serves as Coroner and presides over a death inquest whenever there is an unexpected death, when the county in which the judge presides does have a Medical Examiner. The Judge is the authority in the inquest and may order an autopsy, warrants, criminal investigation, or lock outs. The Judge has the responsibility to certify the death, stating the Cause and Manner. In county without a Medical Examiner, the Judge is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for emergency mental health warrants, search warrants, arrest warrants and death inquests. Williamson County does not a Medical Examiner.
In addition the Judge presides over numerous administrative actions, such as hearings on the concealed handgun permits, driver license suspensions, peace bonds, illegal lockouts, and illegal towing. The Judge also serves as a magistrate and reviews and approves/disapproves felony and misdemeanor arrest and search warrants.