The Austin County Courthouse is a constitutional county court that was established in Austin County, as stated by the Texas Constitution where each of the 254 counties of the State shall have a county court, which is presided by the county judge.
In general, the constitutional county courts have the following jurisdictions:
• Original jurisdiction over civil cases with amount of controversy not greater than $100,000
• Exclusive original jurisdiction over Class A and Class B criminal misdemeanor cases with fines greater than $500 and those that are punishable by jail time
• Appellate jurisdiction or appeals de novo from lower courts such as municipal and justice of the peace courts
• Probate cases (matters on administering estates of deceased individuals, contesting of wills, guardianship for minors and incapacitated persons, individuals with mental illnesses, etc.)
• Juvenile cases (matters on unlawful conduct of delinquent minors, aged 10 to 16)
The Austin County Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the justice of the peace (Justice of the Peace, Precincts 1-4) and district court (155th Judicial District Court of Texas) in civil cases wherein the amount of controversy is small.While it also has concurrent jurisdiction with the statutory county court at law (Austin County Court at Law) over all other matters that the said constitutional county court normally has jurisdiction. The statutory county court at law was established as directed by the Legislature, in larger counties in terms of population such like Austin County, to relieve the single constitutional county court of docket congestion in most or all of its judicial functions.
The Austin County Court has terms on the first Mondays of March, June, September, and December. Below are the current dockets:
Ancillary dates: 9:00 AM Criminal, 9:00 AM Civil
Criminal and civil pre-trial dates: 9:00 AM
Criminal trial dates: 9:00 AM
Civil trial dates: 9:00 AM
The county judge must be well-informed about the laws of the State where the court is situated. He/she should also need not be a licensed lawyer. Upon election or appointment as county court judge, he/she may not go into private practice of law if he/she is a licensed lawyer.
As the county judge is considered the executive official in the county government, this position includes below roles, duties and responsibilities:
• Judicial Powers (cases as mentioned in the above overview of the county court)
• As presiding officer of the county commissioners court (signing of received and approved minutes of commissioners court meetings, filling of vacancy in commissioner’s position, ordering of election upon petition to relocate county seat, etc.)
• As budgeting officer of the county (financial responsibilities such as receiving county depository applications, requiring county officer for budget preparation, reporting in regular commissioners court meetings on monetary collections, signing of order for payment with county treasurer, signed approval of requisition for purchase of materials, approving resolution of the commissioners court to hire an accountant for independent audit, keeping of accounts, charging of statute fees, signing of bonds issued by the county, approval of county expenses, etc.)
• Duties on personal bonds and sureties for certain county officials and other entities (approving bond from commissioners; approving oath and bond for county surveyors, accepting bond from county treasurer, road commissioners, road superintendents, navigation district commissioners, operators of ferries, etc.)
• Administrative responsibilities in the county court (maintaining offices and keeping records at county seat, holding court in auxiliary courthouses, participating in selection of jury lists, selection of jury panel, appointing of court reporters, etc.)
• Duties pertaining to elections (prompting notice of election, issuing certificates of election, call for elections, receive and declare results of elections, membership in county election board, declare election void when necessary, hold special elections, supervision of lot casting, etc.)
• Other special and general responsibilities (preserving and promotion of mental health, participation in creation of hospital districts, issuing or refusal of various permits as specified by the Agriculture Code, Health and Safety Code, Water Code, Alcoholic and Beverage Code, conducting of marriage ceremonies, heading disaster relief and civil defense matters, etc.)
The current Austin County Judge is Hon. Carolyn Bilski. She is currently on her fifth term, after she was elected by Austin County voters in 2010. She was also the first female and first Republican County Judge in Austin County.
Civil cases on credit card or breach of contract are filed by complainants (may be contract signatories or credit card collection agencies, etc.) in a constitutional county court (Austin County Courthouse) or a statutory county court (Austin County Court at Law) on claims above $500 but not greater than $100,000. The notified defendants will need to fill out forms through the County Clerk, whether for admittance of the complainant’s claim or for filing disputes. Informal private hearings would be conducted for filed disputes. until a judicial order on the decisions and necessary fines are came upon by the presiding judge.
Any case smaller than $500 would be filed under Small Claims cases at the lower courts.