Eviction Appeals: Decision of JP Court Irrelevant
This Latin phrase is translated as “starting from the beginning; anew.” Other translations include the words “afresh” and “beginning again.”
Perhaps Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 509.8(e) articulates the concept best. It states as follows:
Trial on Appeal. On appeal, the parties are entitled to a trial de novo. A trial de novo is a new trial in which the entire case is presented as if there had been no previous trial. Either party is entitled to trial by jury on timely request and payment of a fee, if required. An appeal of a judgment of a justice court under these rules takes precedence in the county court and may be held at any time after the eighth day after the date the transcript is filed in the county court.
Since the trial of the eviction suit in the County Court is conducted “as if there had been no previous trial,” the decision of the Justice Court is irrelevant. As such, the underlying Judgment for or against eviction issued by the Justice Court is given no deference by the Judge of the County Court.
The County Court will not examine the proceedings in the Justice Court to determine if the JP committed an error in rendering the eviction Judgment. Rather, the County Court will make its own, independent decision based solely upon the documents and testimony that it receives into evidence at the trial conducted before it.
This “afresh and anew” appellate standard is a function of the hierarchy of Texas Courts. However, it frequently works to the disadvantage of pro se (unrepresented) tenants.
Many times, pro se tenants are unprepared for trial in the County Court because a different set of rules applies. That is, the Texas Rules of Evidence apply in the County Court, but not in the Justice Courts.
The evidentiary rule that most often trips-up pro se tenants in County Court is the prohibition on hearsay evidence. However, other evidentiary standards (such the limitation under TRE 602 to testimony based upon personal knowledge) also prove challenging.
Any landlord facing a Tenant’s eviction appeal to County Court would be wise to consult with a lawyer familiar with the procedure and standards for eviction appeals in San Antonio.