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Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Ask the Judge" Column continues in La Prensa, 12-18

Ask the Judge: The People’s Court
By Judge Steve Walker

Week after week we present you everything you need to know when you come to the Justice of the Peace Court, commonly referred to as the “People’s Court.”

The Texas historical figure we learn about in school that was considered the icon of a Justice of the Peace was the famous/infamous Judge Roy Bean. He was known far and wide as the Judge who dispensed justice west of the Pecos.

In Bexar County Pct. 2 in my court, I dispense justice north of the Westside! Our court covers large segments of the Northside as well as 40 individual precincts in the Westside that includes the St. Mary’s University area near Memorial High School to encompass jurisdiction from 34th street to 39th Street and works its way toward Our Lady of the Lake University.

Pct. 2’s jurisdiction covers 184 precincts with 300-thousand residents in the area or roughly one fourth of the County.

In a three part segment we recently alluded to TV’s “People’s Court” viewed on a local television affiliate with Judge Judy. It was pointed out in one of those previous columns that the syndicated reality show gathers their cases from Justice of the Peace Courts all over the county from all 50 states to include Texas and San Antonio specifically.

In the past few years a number of cases were forwarded from Pct. 2 to the syndicated television show currently airing five times a week.

We informed you that once the cases are transferred to the Judge Judy Show, our court loses jurisdiction and those cases are heard by Judge Judy or even Judge Mathis or Judge Alex. Judge Judy’s decisions are final.

Back in our “People’s Court” as a Judge I am restrained from portraying our court in the same light as the television version. I constantly remind plaintiffs and defendants in my court that we are not the Hollywood version and as Judge I am bound by judicial ethics which preclude me from addressing those before me in a un- professional manner.

Last week I reminded the reader that Justices of the Peace are required by law to complete a forty hour course covering the proper execution and courtroom etiquette of that office’s duties the first time they serve, Justices of the Peace must also complete 20 hours of relevant coursework per year to keep up to date.

During those classes we are constantly reminded that our judicial demeanor must be above reproach and any infraction of those rules can be subject to sanction, reprimand or removal from the bench for undignified behavior. Plaintiffs/Defendants and court personnel such as the bailiff and court clerks are all required to adhere to proper etiquette as well.

Lastly as always, if you are due in court, be sure to show up to court on time. It is in everyone’s best interest.”

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

Editor's Note: This is the 42 consecutive week that "Ask the Judge" has run in La Prensa. It also runs periodically in the Southside reporter and the Helotes Echo.

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