It is the primary duty of a municipal prosecutor not to convict, but to see that justice is done.
Article 45.201(d)Texas Code of Criminal Procedure
The Texas Municipal Courts Education Center is a clearinghouse for legal and technical information relating to prosecution in Texas local trial courts of limited jurisdiction (municipal and justice courts). Since 1992 TMCEC has sponsored an annual prosecutors conference that is attended by governmental attorneys from across the state. Currently, more than 700 attorneys licensed in Texas prosecute in municipal court.
Attorneys who prosecute in municipal court are eligible to sign up for the prosecutor's listserv. The listserv allows prosecuting attorneys from across the state to ask questions and share documents, insights, and experiences with other attorneys across the state. To register, email Hope Lochridge, Subject: Prosecutors' Listserv Request.
20th Annual Prosecutors Conference
This program will be submitted for approval for at least 10.5 hours of MCLE credit –including up to 3.0 hours of ethics – from the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (credit towards the continuing legal education requirements for certification and re-certification in Criminal Law). Registration is not permitted online for this event. Registration form, click HERE.
February 10-12, 2013
1590 LBJ Freeway
Dallas, Texas 75234
June 17-19, 2013
900 North Shoreline Blvd.
Corpus Christi, Texas 78401
Who can prosecute in Municipal Court?
Though many lawyers across the state exclusively prosecute, for the most part, Texas law does not acknowledge "prosecutor" as a category of governmental attorney. Rather, prosecution is generally a duty of certain attorneys who represent the State of Texas in criminal proceedings. In criminal law, the State of Texas includes government at the state and local level. Pursuant to the Texas Constitution such attorneys include district and county attorneys. The authority of other governmental attorneys to represent the State is created by statute. Such attorneys include the State Prosecuting Attorney, and attorneys who prosecute in municipal court. Attorneys who are authorized to represent the State of Texas in municipal court are generally limited to the following:
- City Attorneys (Article 45.201, Code of Criminal Procedure - in non-record municipal courts) and (Section 30.490, Government Code - in municipal courts of record)
- Deputy City Attorneys (Article 45.201, Code of Criminal Procedure)
- Assistant City Attorneys (in municipal courts of record) (Section 30.490, Government Code)
- County Attorneys (without compensation) (Article 45.201, Code of Criminal Procedure)
- Criminal District Attorneys (without compensation) (Art. V. Sec. 21, Texas Constitution)
- Attorneys Pro Tem (Article 2.01, Code of Criminal Procedure)
The Unique Role of City Attorneys
In comparison to state and county government, municipal government has a much more flexible and fluid organizational structure. The nature of city government has in the past caused confusion about the role of municipal courts in state judicial system. Similar dilemmas have surrounded the position of city attorney, specifically the city attorney's duties in municipal court (See, Webinar: Dilemmas of Prosecuting in Municipal Court, August 11, 2006).
While state law imposes no duties on city attorneys as it relates to civil matters, that is not true when it comes to criminal cases in municipal court. As the Court of Criminal Appeals stated in Aguirre v. State, 22 S.W.3d 463, 469 (Tex.Crim.App. 1999) "[t]he responsibility and authority in municipal prosecutions is clear: In the municipal court the city attorney has the right and duty to prosecute, and the county attorney has the right, but not a duty to prosecute."
Unlike in county and state government, a municipality depending on its population and rules of local governance (by charter and/or ordinance), may have one, two or more, or no city attorney(s). Cities may, but are not required to, have an elected or appointed city attorney, but cities that opt to have a municipal court are required by state law to have an attorney who is legally authorized to prosecute. Such attorneys, depending on the municipality, may be "in-house," solo practitioners, or employed by a law firm. Depending on the volume of complaints filed in a municipal court, prosecution may entail some or all of an attorney's time.
Bearing the moniker "city attorney" (in its various forms) entails the duty to prosecute in municipal court. This duty is a noted exception to the general rule that state law does not impose such "civil duties" on city attorneys. Because municipal law involves a very broad cross-section of the law, and because a municipal attorney's practice may focus on other specific areas of law that do not entail criminal law, not all municipal attorneys are familiar with the specific procedural and substantive law issues that are essential to prosecuting in municipal court.
To this end, TMCEC seeks to assist all attorneys who prosecute in municipal court the opportunity to increase their proficiency and maintain professionalism through specialized continuing legal education.
Texas City Attorneys Association
Texas District and County Attorneys Association
Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professonal Conduct - Rule 3.09 Special Reponsibilities of a Prosecutor
Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism
Precedential Case Law (Cases Cited in the TMCEC Bench Book and The Municipal Judges Book)
Texas Attorney General Opinions (Cited in the TMCEC Bench Book and The Municipal Judges Book)