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December 30th, 2008
Barton taking applications for open JP seat

County Commissioner Jeff Barton is soliciting applications for the position of Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5 in Hays County. Whoever is selected will replace Judge Lamont Ramage. Judge Ramage is retiring before the end of his term. His regular term will expire in 2010. The appointee will serve through then and may choose to run for election to a full term or not.

Precinct 5 voters in 2010 will elect someone to serve a full four-year term.

Commissioner Barton will select an applicant or applicants to recommend to the full Commissioners Court, composed of five members. The Commissioners Court will select the replacement for Judge Ramage by majority vote.

The law sets few specific criteria for a justice of the peace, except that he or she should reside in the precinct. Precinct 5 includes the incorporated towns of Buda, Hays, and Niederwald, as well as most of the subdivisions around them. Citizens living in voting precincts 224, 226, 228, 230, and 234 are eligible.

Here is how the Texas Association of Counties describes the role of a justice of the peace:

The justice of the peace is the legal jurisdiction closest to the average citizen.

Section 19 of Article 5 of the Texas Constitution provides that: justice of the peace courts have original jurisdiction in criminal matters of misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only and such other jurisdiction as may be provided by law. Original jurisdiction is the authority to accept a case at its inception, try it and pass judgment based upon the laws and facts. This is distinguished from appellate jurisdiction, which is jurisdiction to review a court’s action. The justice of the peace performs the functions of a magistrate and conducts inquests.

A justice of the peace may issue warrants for search and arrest, conduct preliminary hearings, administers oaths, perform marriages and serve as a coroner in counties where there is no provision for a medical examiner. The justice court also functions as a small claims court in civil matters in which exclusive jurisdiction is not in district or county court and the amount in controversy does not exceed $10,000. They can also deal with matters concerning foreclosure of mortgages and enforcement of liens on personal property.

In Texas, JPs are not required to be attorneys at law. Historically, few Hays County JPs have been.

Persons interested in consideration for the position should fill out the questionnaire on Commissioner Barton’s website (www.comm2.co.hays.tx.us), or contact his office for a copy. It is due by 2 p.m., January 9th

Commissioner Barton said he will vet applications with a citizen committee he is putting together specially to review potential JP candidates. He hopes to have a recommendation for the Commissioners Court – including back-up – before the end of January.

Applications may be submitted by email, or in person to Commissioner Barton’s executive assistant: Kara kara.bishop@co.hays.tx.us. Applicants will be contacted by the commissioner’s office, and may be asked to submit additional information and/or to participate in face-to-face interviews.

The commissioner’s office is located at 111 N. Front St., Kyle.

The pay for justice of the peace is $53,809 per year, plus an auto allowance. The judge also oversees a small staff of clerks.

by Kara Bishop
Assistant to Commissioner Jeff Barton

Questionnaire for Justice of the Peace, JP Precinct 5, Hays County

Applications are due by 2 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9.

The commissioner’s office is located at 111 N. Front St., Kyle. Applications may be submitted in person or by email to Commissioner Barton’s executive assistant: kara.bishop@co.hays.tx.us. Applicants will be contacted by the commissioner’s office, and may be asked to submit additional information and to participate in face-to-face interviews.

The pay for justice of the peace is $53,809 per year.

1. Name:

2. Address:

3. Home Telephone:

4. Business or daytime telephone, if different from home:

5. Cell phone:

6. Preferred email address:

7. Years lived in Hays County:

8. Time lived at present address (years and months):

9. Please summarize your formal education.

10. Please note any professional licenses or certifications you may hold.

11. Would you describe yourself as: a) unemployed, b) employed full-time, c) employed part-time, d) student, e) retired, or f) other (explain)?

12. Briefly summarize your work history, starting with your most recent employment and working backward through time.

13. Briefly describe what you believe would make you a good justice of the peace.

14. List at least three character references outside your immediate family, including a phone number and address where they may be reached. At least one of these should be a former employer or a teacher.

15. Have you ever been charged with a felony?

16. If yes, give details, including the disposition of your case and your current legal status.

17. Have you been charged with a misdemeanor of any type within the past five years?

18. If yes, give details, including the disposition of your case and any court-ordered fines, supervision, or community service that is on-going at this time. If your answer is yes, and includes any action other than a routine traffic violations, please give the month and year of the incident, to the best of your recollection, and the county and court in which your case was filed.

19. Have you declared bankruptcy within the past five years?

20. Are you currently involved in civil litigation that involves you personally (not as an officer of a corporation, government, or as representative of a partnership or non-profit)? Or have you been, in the past five years?

21. If yes, please explain.

22. Are you currently involved in civil litigation that involves you as officer of a corporation, government, or as representative of a partnership or non-profit? Or have you been, in the past three years?

23. If yes, please explain.

24. Have you ever run for elective office?

25. If yes, please provide the office, county or city of residence at the time, and give the year of the election.

26. Have you ever worked county government? If so, how, when and where?

27. Have you ever appeared in person before a justice of the peace?

28. Describe your communication skills?

29. Describe your temperament. Do friends and family think of you as stern? Cheerful? Steady? Mercurial? Outgoing or introverted?

30. A justice of the peace is on-call at odd hours of the day and night. Is there anything that would prevent or inhibit you from receiving emergency calls at unusual hours and/or attending the scene of accidents, or performing magistrate duties at various locations after regular office hours?

31. Do you hold a valid Texas driver’s license, and own an automobile – or have other ready means of transportation on short notice?

32. Please list clubs and organizations where you are currently active, or where you have been active in the past.

33. If there is additional information you wish to share, do so here. You may include a copy of a recent resume, if you like, though it is not required.

Photo by Sean Wardwell

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