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Court Rules

Rules of the Gainesville Municipal Court.

Rule One:  Authority.

1.1 Authority for Rules:

Under the inherent power and duty of all Texas courts as codified in Sec. 21.001 of the Texas Government Code, the following Local Rules of the Municipal Court of the City of Gainesville, Texas (hereinafter “Local Rules”) are promulgated and shall apply and govern any and all proceedings held within the Municipal Court of the City of Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas.  These Rules are adopted for the purpose of securing uniformity in those proceedings and in order to promote justice.

1.2 Application:

The Local Rules apply to attorneys and their staff members, to each Defendant representing himself/herself (hereinafter “pro se Defendants”), to all court staff, to witnesses and observers.  The judge may promulgate additional rules for his/her Court, which do not conflict with the rules and applicable law.  Failure to comply with these rules may result in the imposition of sanctions, including contempt.

1.3 Effective Date:

These Local Rules are effective March 1, 2018 and supersede all previous Local Rules of the Gainesville Municipal Court.

1.4  Availability:

A copy of these Local Rules shall be available at the Court Clerk’s window in the lobby of the City of Gainesville’s Steven K. Fleming Public Safety Building and the Gainesville Municipal Court’s website.

1.5  Citation Form:

These Local Rules shall be known as the Local Rules of the Municipal Court of the City of Gainesville, Texas and each rule may be cited as “Gainesville, Texas Local Rule _ _ _” or “G.T.L.R. _ _ _”.

1.6   Authority of the Municipal Court Judge:

The elected Presiding Judge, or a Substitute Judge sitting for the Presiding Judge, has all authority within the Court and in the Gainesville Municipal Court in general as does any Municipal Judge in the State of Texas granted to them by state law for a Municipal Court of Non-Record.  Each Municipal Judge, whether full-time or Substitute, is also a Magistrate, and has all authority as a Magistrate in Cooke County as set forth in state law.

1.7   Hours of Operation:

The hours of operation of the Court Clerk’s window shall be 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. Monday through Friday except in the case of application for a payment plan that are set at 8 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.. Any other exceptions to said hours shall be for city observed holidays or as determined by order of the Presiding Judge, the Mayor or the City Manager. 

Defendants who want to appear before the Judge or are required to appear before the Judge to enter a plea, will contact the Clerk of the Court to schedule a time on the Court’s docket.  Juveniles who are bound by state law to enter a plea in open court will be mailed notice via United States Postal Service to last known address.

The Judge cannot ethically speak to any party regarding the merits or facts of a case without a “guilty” or “no contest” plea being entered or without both the prosecution and the defense being present.

Rule Two:  Appearance, Bonds and Pleas.

2.1  Plea by Defendant:

A plea of “not guilty”, “guilty” or “no contest” must be filed with the Clerk of the Court within fifteen (15) business days following the issuance of the citation (hereinafter “Initial Appearance”).  On or before the Initial Appearance date, which may be either in open court or at the Court Clerk’s window (pursuant to Standing Orders), the Defendant may enter a plea of “Not Guilty”, “Guilty”, or “Nolo Contendere” (no contest).   All pleas not entered in open court must be in writing.  Pleas may be made by the Defendant or by the Attorney of Record for the Defendant. 

“Not guilty” pleas may also be made by mail.  A timely plea of “not guilty” by a pro se Defendant will result in the case(s) being set on a Pre-Trial Hearing Docket for a later date and Defendant being provided with a “Court Procedures” document (Fig 1).  Payment in full of a case shall constitute a “no contest” plea.  No partial payment shall be accepted without a plea having been previously entered. 

The date of the postmark shall be deemed the date of filing of any plea received by mail.  The date of receipt of a FAX or email by the Clerk’s office shall be the date of filing of such plea.

Defendants who have received a citation for an offense that requires, by law, that a plea of “No Contest” or “Guilty” be made in open court shall do so.

Court personnel shall not advise the Defendant as to which plea to enter.

2.2 Deferred Disposition NOT Requested:

A Defendant pleading “No Contest” or “Guilty” and is not requesting a Deferred Disposition, may enter the plea in writing and sign a Waiver of Jury Trial.  The plea may be submitted to the Court either at the Court Clerk’s window or by mail.  Payment of fines and court costs are required at the time of the plea, unless other arrangements have been made by the Defendant.

2.3  Deferred Disposition Requested:

A Defendant pleading “No Contest” or “Guilty” and is requesting that the Court grant a Deferred Disposition shall make his/her request in open court or file affidavit with the Court at the Court Clerk’s window.

2.4  Requests for Assistance:

A party desiring the services of an interpreter pursuant to Texas Government Code Section 57.002, shall make the request in writing in the case of a written plea or in open court in case of verbal plea.  Requests for assistance from persons with disabilities should be made at the time the plea is entered or as soon as practical thereafter as a party becomes aware of the need for interpreter services.

2.5  Bond Required:

For any case more than 60 days old or with an active alias warrant, the attorney shall be required to post an Attorney’s Bond and a pro se Defendant shall be required to post a cash or Surety Bond, before the case will be placed on a docket.  Cash Bond shall be equivalent to the amount of Fine and Costs.  Surety Bond shall be equivalent to double the Fine and Costs.

2.6  Appearance:

An attorney must make an appearance in a case in writing by filing a Letter of Representation with the Clerk of the Court at the Court Clerk’s window.

Rule Three: Notice.

3.1  Responsibility:

It is the responsibility of all persons with business before the Court to:

  1. Determine the date, time, location and nature of each setting of the case(s) and,
  2. Update or notify the Court of any changes of address of the Defendant or of Counsel for the Defendant.

3.2  Notice:

Notice of the date, time, location and nature of each setting shall be given, in writing, by the Court Clerk to a pro se Defendant in person or by mail at the last known address.  Notice of the date, time, location and nature of each setting shall be given by the Court Clerk to Counsel for Defendant in person, by email or report mailed to last known address of Attorney.

3.3  Verbal Representations:

Reliance by any party upon verbal representations from any Court staff or a police officer concerning any matters shall not be binding as grounds for continuance, setting aside a warrant or judgment, dismissal of any case or any other relief.

3.4  Complaint:

A copy of the Complaint will be made available to the Defendant or Counsel for the Defendant upon request to the Court Clerk.  The Complaint shall be made available to the Defendant or to Counsel for the Defendant no later than twenty-four (24) hours prior to a scheduled trial.

Rule Four:  Courtroom Decorum.

4.1  Formal Opening:

The Gainesville Municipal Court will only have a formal opening when the Court is conducting a Juvenile Plea Docket, Bench or Jury Trials.  Each of these sessions of the Court shall be brought to order by formal announcement by the Bailiff of the Court, requiring all present in the Courtroom to rise as the Judge takes the Bench.  The Bailiff shall remain in the Courtroom at all times while the Court is in session.

4.2  Conduct Required of All Persons Attending Court:

Court is in session whenever the Judge is on the Bench.  While the Court is in session, unless the Judge directs otherwise the following conduct must be observed:

  1. No smoking or use of tobacco products, including snuff or chewing tobacco.
  2. No reading of any materials, other than court documents, including books, magazines or newspapers and any electronic forms of such materials.
  3. No propping feet or sitting on tables, railings or the backs of chairs.
  4. No loud noises.  Any children brought into the Courtroom must be quiet or they must be removed.
  5. No eating, drinking or gum chewing. (water is permitted at the counsel table)
  6. No standing in the Courtroom, except when addressing the Court or by direction of the Judge or when necessitated by the business of the Court.
  7. No gestures, facial expressions or sounds indicating approval or disapproval of a ruling by the Court or a comment on testimony of a witness.
  8. All persons, whether attorneys, parties, witnesses, jurors or spectators conducting business, participating in trials, or otherwise attending proceedings in the courtroom of the Municipal Court of the City of Gainesville, Texas shall be dressed appropriately so as to maintain the dignity, integrity, decorum, seriousness and professional atmosphere of the Court and the administration of justice.  As such, no inappropriate attire, including short shorts, tank tops, sleeveless shirts, jeans with holes or cutouts, low pants with underwear showing or inappropriate “message” shirts, or sunglasses shall be allowed.  No hats or head coverings including scarves, bandanas or do-rags shall be worn in the Courtroom, unless such item is of a religious nature or for medical reasons. (Shorts of modest length and T-shirts with sleeves and no messages are acceptable for non-trial settings.)
  9. No un-attended children in the Courtroom.  Children under the age of 8 and children 8 and older, who cannot sit alone, cannot be brought into a courtroom without an adult or older responsible child, who can accompany them out of the Courtroom, if necessary.
  10. No cellular telephones are to be used in the Courtroom.  All cell phones must be powered off, or silenced, at all times, except by express permission of the Judge.  Electronic tablets or laptop computers may not be used in the Courtroom, except by attorneys, their staffs and pro se Defendants, while processing a case or docket.  Any device which rings or otherwise makes noise may be taken by the Bailiff and not returned until the conclusion of the court proceeding.
  11. Absolutely no weapons shall be brought into the courtroom, with the exception of those intended to be offered as evidence.  Commissioned peace officers may bring weapons in the courtroom.  The Judge shall have the discretion to have any object removed from the courtroom.
  12. No person may make audio, video or photographic recordings of the court while in session without permission from the Judge.  This also applies to jury deliberations.

4.3  Conduct Required of all Attorneys and pro se Defendants:

Attorneys shall observe both the letter and the spirit of all Canons of Ethics and the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, including those Canons concerning improper ex parte communication with the Judge and those dealing with discussion of cases with representatives of the media.  In addition;

  1. Attorneys shall advise their clients and witnesses of all the Local Rules that may be applicable, and shall ensure that their clients and witnesses follow and fully adhere to all such rules.
  2. Pro se Defendants (Defendants acting as their own attorney) shall conform their behavior to all provisions of the Canons of Ethics applicable to licensed attorneys.  Pro se Defendants shall not attempt to converse with the Judge about their cases unless the prosecuting attorney is present.
  3. All parties shall be prompt in arriving for Court and attending to Court business.  Attorneys, Defendants represented by Attorneys and pro se Defendants shall be on time and if the Attorney is required to be in another Court, he/she shall notify the Clerk of the Court that he/she anticipates being tardy specifying where the attorney is and when he/she anticipates being present.  Any Attorney with such a conflict shall notify the Court at least 24 hours before the court setting, unless the delay could not be anticipated.
  4. Failure of a represented Defendant or pro se Defendant to appear as scheduled may result in a warrant being issued.  An Attorney who fails to appear timely may be subject to sanctions, up to and including contempt.
  5. During trial or any hearing, any objections, arguments and comments shall be directed to the Judge and not to opposing counsel or to pro se Defendants.  Any objections which have been raised during a hearing or trial shall be supported by legal basis for such objection.
  6. During trial or any hearing, all participants in the proceeding shall address each other and members of the Jury, if any, without familiarity.  The use of first names shall be avoided.  While addressing the Court, Attorneys and pro se Defendants shall rise and remain standing at their position at the counsel table unless directed otherwise by the Judge.
  7. During trial or any hearing, Attorneys and pro se Defendants shall not approach the Bench except after requesting and receiving permission from the Judge or as directed by the Judge.  Attorneys and pro se Defendants shall remain seated at the counsel table at all times, except (1) when the Judge enters and leaves, (2) when addressing the Judge or Jury, (3) when objecting to the opposing party, (4) whenever it may be proper to handle documents, exhibits or other evidence, or (5) when the Judge directs otherwise.

4.4  The Media:

As the Gainesville Municipal Court is NOT a court of record, the media will not be allowed to record any court proceedings.

Rule Five:  Pre-Trial Dockets.

5.1 Pre-Trial Hearing Docket Purpose:

Any and all Defendants, either pro se or by Attorney, requesting a trial, will be scheduled for a Pre-Trial Hearing.  The purpose of the conference is to provide the pro se Defendant with information regarding procedures and processes used in the court during trial and to resolve cases prior to trial and to set for trial those cases that cannot be resolved.  Attorneys and/or pro se Defendants will receive notice, in person, at the time of plea entry or by mail in the event of a plea being entered by mail.  Notice shall be mailed at least 10 days prior to the setting. 

It is the responsibility of the attorney to notify his/her clients, to inform the clients of any pending offer and to have the Defendant present at the time and place of the Pre-Trial Hearing.

5.2 Failure of Defendant to Appear:

If the Defendant does not appear at the calling of the Pre-Trial Hearing Docket, the judge may issue a warrant or forfeit any cash or Surety Bond that has been posted on the Defendant’s behalf.  A Motion to Withdraw on any case set for Pre-Trial Hearing Docket shall be filed prior to the Pre-Trial Hearing or presented at the time of the Pre-Trial Hearing and should comply with Rule 5.4 below. 

For Surety Bond cases, any Affidavit of Intent to Surrender or Affidavit of Surrender (for incarcerated Defendants) shall also be filed no later than the calling of the Pre-Trial Hearing Docket.

5.3 Reset to Pre-Trial Hearing Docket:

A case will not be reset to the Pre-Trial Hearing Docket without a Motion for Continuance filed and granted.  All other cases must either be resolved at Pre-Trial Hearing or set for Trial.  Any other exceptions will be determined by the Judge. 

No case will be set for a Jury Trial without an appearance by the pro se Defendant or Attorney and Defendant at the Pre-Trial Hearing, unless a Defendant’s appearance is specifically excused by the Judge.

5.4 Motions:

Pre-Trial Motions (other than Motion for Continuance) shall be filed in writing, at the Court Clerk’s window, at least five (5) days prior to Defendant’s scheduled Pre-Trial Hearing Docket.  Pre-Trial Motions must be relevant and specific as to the case involved.

5.5 Hearings:

Failure to file Pre-Trial Motions as indicated herein shall constitute a waiver of having those issues heard before trial.  If a Pre-Trial Motion has not been ruled upon before trial date, such motions shall be heard on the date of trial.

5.6 Service:

Service of a Motion or Response may be made as provided by law.  Each Motion or Response shall contain a Certificate of Service signed by the Movant indicating that a copy of such Motion or Response has been served upon the opposing party; the manner of service; and the date of service.

Rule Six: Other Motions.

6.1 Motions for Continuance:

Motions for Continuance require good cause shown and will not be granted for simple delay purposes.  A Motion for Continuance shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court as soon as the Attorney for the Defendant or the State or pro se Defendant is aware of the necessity for seeking a continuance. 

6.2 Code:

Continuances are governed by Chapter 29 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.  This Rule Six is intended to supplement and not to replace the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

6.3 Form:

  1. All Motions for Continuance shall be in writing and shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court at least twenty-four (24) hours prior to the scheduled court date.
  2. Each motion for Continuance shall contain:
    1. The Cause Number;
    2. The name of the Defendant;
    3. The date and time of the setting for which the continuance is sought;
    4. The specific facts justifying the continuance.  If the reason for the continuance is a conflict with a setting in another court, the Motion shall contain the Style and Cause Number of the other case, as well as the Court Number and time of the conflict;
    5. An oath attesting to the truth of the matters contained in the Motion; and
    6. A proposed order for the Judge to designate whether the motion is “Granted” or “Denied”.

6.4 Emergency Motions:

Where the underlying facts (good cause) which form the basis for the Motion for Continuance were not discovered and could not have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence, and Emergency Motion for Continuance may be filed.  Such motion may be filed at any time prior to the respective court proceeding and will be ruled on by the Judge at the call of the docket.

6.5 Factors:

With the exception of continuances sought on Constitutional or Statutory grounds, the following factors will be considered in the determining whether the motion shall be granted or denied:

  1. The specific nature of the conflict in scheduling;
  2. The age of the case;
  3. The number of previous continuances granted to each party;
  4. The timeliness of the filing of the motion, including the date on which the scheduling conflict, if any, became known to the Movant; and
  5. Any other matter relevant to the motion.

6.6 Denied Motions:

If a Defendant’s Motion for Continuance is denied, in order for the Defendant to avoid a warrant, a bond in the amount set by the Court may be required to be posted, at the discretion of the Judge denying the motion.  It is the responsibility of the pro se Defendant or the Counsel for Defendant to determine whether the motion was granted or denied and to determine whether a bond is required.  If a State’s Motion for Continuance is denied, the case will proceed to Pre-Trial, Trial or other disposition.

6.7 Motions to Withdraw:

An attorney who makes an appearance on behalf of a Defendant shall continue to be considered by the Court as the Attorney of Record for that Defendant until written Motion to Withdraw is filed by that attorney and is granted by the Court or the case is disposed of by trial, plea, deferred disposition or driving safety granted, dismissal or substitution of counsel.

6.8 Withdrawal without a Hearing:

A Motion to Withdraw as Counsel for Defendant may be granted without a hearing only if the moving attorney files a verified certificate stating the last know mailing address of the Defendant or if counsel files, along with the motion, a written Consent to Withdraw signed by the client in which consent acknowledges that the Defendant has been advised of all future court settings.

Rule Seven: Trial Settings.

 7.1 Request for Trial:

A request for a trial may be prior to or on the scheduled Initial Appearance Date.  The request shall specify either a jury or bench trial setting.

Upon making a request for trial, the Attorney of Record shall provide his name, office address, bar card number and telephone number.  A pro se Defendant requesting a trial shall provide current work/home address and telephone numbers.

7.2 Trial Docket:

  1. All cases set on the Trial Docket will be called at the time for which they are set, whereupon the State and the Defendant are expected to announce ready for trial subject to the hearing on any properly filed Pre-Trial Motions.
  2. If the Defendant fails to appear in person and announce ready for trial at the time the case is called for trial without showing good cause, the Court may issue a warrant for the Defendant’s arrest and may require that the Defendant post a bond.
  3. If the State fails to appear and announce ready for trial at the time a case is called for trial, without showing good cause, the Court may proceed to trial.
  4. The Court may, at the request of either the State or the Defendant, or on its own motion, specially set a case for trial on the merits.

7.3 Docket Order:

Subject to the discretion of the Judge calling the docket, the order of cases proceeding to trial (both bench and jury) shall be as follows:

  1. Preferential settings.
  2. Cases according to age, oldest first.  All cases not reached will be noted as the court’s reset, with no penalties assessed against either the Defendant or the State.

 

7.4 Preferential Setting:

To receive a preferential setting, subject to the Judge’s approval, a party must meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Reside more than fifty (50) miles outside of the city.
  2. Have a condition, illness, or injury that would necessitate an expedited disposition of the case.
  3. Have a Non-Defendant witness who has appeared on at least two prior trial settings without their case have been reached.

7.5 Required Appearance:

All interested parties must be present and in the courtroom at the time the docket is called.  Interested parties are defined as:

  1. Defendants.
  2. Defense counsel.
  3. State’s counsel.

7.6 Failure to Appear.

If Defendant or defense counsel is not present, a bond must be posted in order to have the case reset, unless waived by the Judge for good cause shown.  If State’s witness is not present, State shall show good cause for witness’s absence, or proceed to trial.

7.7 Visual / Audio Aids.

A Defendant who wishes to use visual or audio aids in their defense must notify the Court at least one (1) week prior to trial so that arrangements can be made for the proper equipment to be available.  The Judge shall make the final decision on what audio or video recordings, if any, are to be admitted into evidence.

7.8 Jury Trials and Required Fees:

A Defendant convicted by a Jury in a trial shall pay a Jury Fee of $3.00 unless released from the obligation by the Court for good cause. (See Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art(s) 45.026 and 102.004)

Rule Eight: Juvenile and Minor Proceedings.

8.1 Juvenile Defined:

A juvenile is a Defendant who is at least 10 years of age and is younger than 17 years of age.

8.2 Minors Defined:

A minor (under the age of 21 but older than 16) charged with an alcohol related offense of Minor in Possession or Minor in Consumption under Chapter 106 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code will be mailed a packet of instructions for entering a plea and a list of sanctions to be completed by a prescribed due date.  Upon entering a nolo contendere plea an MIP or MIC conviction will be deferred.  When the Defendant completes all sanctions within the prescribed time the conviction will be dismissed.

All minors (under 18 years of age) who plea “not guilty” must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at all court proceedings. 

8.3 Entering a Plea:

A juvenile must enter his/her plea in open court with a parent (includes a person standing in parental relation, a managing conservator, custodian or guardian) present.  Parent or guardian is required to be present with the juvenile at all court proceedings.  However, the court may hear a case if satisfied that due diligence has been used to obtain the presence of the parent or legal guardian.

8.4 Notice of Current Address:

The parents and the juvenile have a continuing obligation to give written notice of their current address and of any change of address.

Rule Nine: Post-Trial Proceedings.

9.1 Show-Cause Docket

The Presiding Judge may create a Show-Cause Hearing Docket at such times and dates as may be deemed necessary.

9.2 Inability to Pay Fine:

If a Defendant does not appeal the Court’s decision, but claims indigence, the Defendant may request an Indigency Hearing.  At that hearing, the Defendant shall be required to show-cause why he/she cannot discharge the fine by making installment payments or performing community service hours in lieu of payment.

9.2 Indigency Upon Appeal:

If the Defendant is indigent and unable to pay the Appeal Bond, he/she may file an Affidavit of Indigency with the Clerk of the Court and file a Motion to Waive Costs on forms approved by the Court.  Such Affidavit of Indigency and/or Motion to Waive Costs must be filed within the ten (10) day statutory period to file an Appeal Bond.  A hearing on the Motion to Waive Costs shall then be scheduled by the Court.

9.3 APPEAL BOND:

An appeal bond is required to perfect an appeal from the Municipal Court.  All appeal bonds require the signature and address of the Defendant.  An appeal bond must be approved by the Court and must be filed not later than the tenth (10th) day after the date of conviction.  Appeal bonds shall comply with Chapter 45 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

9.4 PROCEDURE FOR POSTING BOND:

When a Defendant is in the custody of the Cooke County Jail, acting under contract for the City of Gainesville, bond will be made at the Cooke County Jail, which is open twenty-four hours a day.  Either cash or surety bonds may be made at the Cooke County Jail to secure the release of the Defendant from Police custody.

9.5 BOND FORFEITURE:

  1. The purpose of a bail bond is to ensure the appearance of a Defendant before the Court to answer a criminal accusation.
  2. If the Defendant fails to appear in court as scheduled, the Court may issue a Judgment Nisi, a warrant for the defendant’s arrest, and may increase the bail in each case.  Bonds are forfeited according to the Code of Criminal Procedure and all other applicable laws dealing with the final forfeiture of bail.

9.6 EXPUNCTION / EXPUNGEMENT:

 All procedures concerning expunction/expungement of criminal records shall conform to the requirements of Chapter 45 and/or Chapter 55 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, or Section 106.12 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code and any other applicable statutes or regulations.

9.7 REVIEW OF COURT DOCUMENTS:

The Municipal Court shall make court documents available for review under reasonable conditions and safeguards and as required by law.  At no time may a Defendant or his attorney remove the original complaint from the court jacket.

9.8 CERTIFIED COPIES:

Certified copies of court documents may be obtained from the Municipal Court for the fees set forth by the City of Gainesville.  Upon request, a defendant is entitled to one (1) free uncertified copy of the complaint of a pending case only.

Rule Ten: Severability and Construction.

10.1 Severability:

If any provision of these Rules or the application thereof to any person or circumstance is held invalid or unconstitutional, such invalidity or unconstitutionality shall not affect other provisions or application of these Rules, which can be given effect without the invalid or unconstitutional provision or application, and to this end the provisions of the Rules are severable.

10.2 Inapplicability to Civil Cases:

The Rules set forth herein are the Local Rules of Court applicable to criminal proceedings, and are not applicable to the civil cases and administrative hearings heard in the Gainesville Municipal Court with the exception of the Rule on Courtroom Decorum.

10.3 Construction:

These Rules shall not be construed so as to enlarge, diminish, modify or alter the jurisdiction, power or authority of the Municipal Court of the City of Gainesville Cooke County, Texas.