Just recently my Justices of the Peace have asked my office, County Attorney's Office, to prosecute these hearings in JP court. Being such a small office I have coordinated with them to provide a prosecutor for them one day a week, rotating between all the JP courts. However, the JP's seem to want to schedule Truancy hearings at many different times, such as when I have a jury trial in county court at law, or a CPS 14 day hearing in District Court, etc. The JP's feel that they may be sanctioned for allowing prosecution of Truancy hearings without a prosecutor, CCP �45.101. This does not seem to matter to them when they drop charges on simple assaults or handle IBC cases on their own. Any guidance other than asking Commissioner's Court for an additional prosecutor? Now I just tell them that I am not available that particular day. Some days I may not actually have court, but need the time catching up or preparing for trial.
I too used to handle truancy JP court in my former (small) county and sometimes the JP's docket for truancy court and that of the county and/or district judges' did not match up. The result? No prosecutor could appear for truancy court. Kosher or not, my JP's would simply proceed and hold the hearings on their own. Our JP's would simply call the school officers to the stand and let them testify without any "direct examination" from the bench. The witness would state their facts and then take any cross examination questions from the child or parent.
Nobody that I heard of ever objected. Heck, I'm sure many of the parties thought that the less lawyers involved, the better. We are, after all, talking about JP court here. It's pretty loosey-goosey even on a "normal" day with a prosecutor actually there.
There is definitely a problem in this area. The Texas Justice Court Training Center advises JP's that Art. 45.101 mandates a prosecutor for all JP criminal cases (traffic tickets, truancy...everything.) Leaving traffic tickets aside for the moment, my office's official position is that the Educ. Code allows the State's case to be presented by a school attendance officer and that Art. 45.031 allows the JP to proceed without a prosecutor. Art. 45.032 does not require a directed verdict if the school attendance officer has made a prima facie case of truancy. Based on the opinion of the Texas Justice Court Training Center, the Texas Commission om Judicial Conduct has sanctioned justices who conduct criminal cases without a prosecutor. It is this office's position that the Justice may rely on a legal opinion from the DA over the advisory opinion of the TJCTC and that such reliance will provide a defense before the TCJC. I suggest that your office issue a legal opinion to your JP's to support any decision not to staff their courts with prosecutors. If you have any questions, I would be happy to talk to you. Call me at the Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney's Office - Civil Division (806) 775-1112.
"John Grace is great....He gives us chocolate cake!"
...or in this case, great information on this truancy question. Thanks for all the help, John.
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