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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ask the Judge," continues to run in Sunday's La Prensa of SA

Steve Walker (photo)
Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2
A.K.A. Walker Report Publisher/Editor

Coming this Sunday in La Prensa of San Antonio the column, "Ask the Judge" by Walker Report Publisher/Editor & Justice of the Peace Steve Walker, will deal with students charged with disruption of class and disorderly conduct.

This past Sunday, the column dealt with evictions. Here is the story in its entirety.

Ask the Judge

One of the most difficult dockets I face as a Judge every week is the eviction docket. Since taking office January 1st 2009, I have presided over an estimated 6-thousand eviction cases.

Out of those cases only eight defendants to date have been able to prove with documentation that they should not be evicted. Normal documentation usually includes rent receipts or some sort of paperwork with signatures verifying the rent was paid.

The procedure is simple. The plaintiff (owner, manager, attorney or designated person representing the owner) requests a tenant be evicted for failure to pay monthly rent and be awarded a monetary judgment for the unpaid rent on the dwelling. The plaintiff can not, by law, include late fees.

Should the defendant or plaintiff lose the case, he/she has five days to appeal to the County Court for retrial before another Judge to include posting a bond. While the defendant/plaintiff’s case is under appeal, the defendant is still required by law to continue to pay rent until the case is settled.

In Pct. 2, we take time at the beginning of court to go over the procedures to expedite the process. Everyone involved in the proceedings is afforded the opportunity to state their case, present their facts and re-butt the other side when they disagree, in an orderly manner.

As Judge, I begin by asking the plaintiff if they want repossession of their property and a judgment. If they answer “Yes” to both questions they are obligated to tell the court how much the monthly rent is and how much is currently owed.

At that point the defendant is asked if they owe money. If they answer “Yes” I inform them they will be evicted. I then ask them if they owe the amount the plaintiff claims. Many times the defendant admits they owe money but dispute the amount claimed by the plaintiff.

At that point the defendant is required to show some documentation or evidence to prove they don’t owe the higher amount the plaintiff is seeking. If they are unable to prove otherwise, I render a verdict of eviction and assess the amount owed to the plaintiff.

If the defendant does not appeal, he/she has five days to vacate said premises. If the tenant fails to leave in a timely manner, the plaintiff must file a writ to authorize the constable’s deputies to forcibly remove the tenant and his/her belongings such as furniture, clothing etc. and put on the street away from the property.

When owners or tenants believe the other side has breached their contract over other issues besides rent, both sides have other legal remedies such as a law suit in small claims court.

The plaintiff can sue the defendant for example for late fees and failure to pay electric bills and damages to property while the defendant can also sue owners for refusal to repair the property that causes unsafe conditions and possible harm to their families.

Lastly, if a defendant doesn’t show up for court it is an automatic default for the property owner. If the plaintiff doesn’t show up for court, the case is dismissed. However, the plaintiff can re-file, but must pay the additional court filing fees.

Be sure to show up on time. It is in your best interest.

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and a former Journalist.

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