Prosecutors


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 information relating to the prosecution of fine-only misdemeanors in Texas. Since 1992 TMCEC has offered specialized continuing legal education to prosecuting attorneys from across the state. Currently, more than 700 attorneys licensed in Texas prosecute in municipal court. Fine-only misdemeanors are also prosecuted in justice and county courts. The TMCEC Prosecutor Conferences are uniquely designed to help prosecutors and other attorneys stay abreast in information necessary to maintaining professional competence. Presentations focus on emerging topics, ethics, as well as procedural, substantive, and case law. 

 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.
 
Registration for FY18 is now open, please visit our register site to register.
Or you can access registration forms here.
 
2018 TMCEC Prosecutors Conferences
 
These conferences will be submitted for CLE credit by the State Bar of Texas. We plan to provide at least one hour of ethics at each school with an additional three hours of CLE offered during the pre-conference.
 
Municipal prosecutors may register for either of the prosecutor's conferences. Registration fees include housing, two breakfasts, and one lunch. The registration fee is $300 ($400 with CLE) if housing is requested. Municipal prosecutors who do not need housing may pay a $150 registration fee ($250 with CLE). Attorneys who are not hired or retained to prosecute in a municipal court are responsible for a $350 ($450 with CLE) registration fee.
 
 
 
*Attendees who must cancel for any reason will be charged a $100 cancellation fee if notice of cancellation is not received at least 10 business days prior to the conference
 
March 21-23, 2018
Houston

Register by: 2/22/18
June 25-27, 2018
San Antonio 

Register by: 5/26/18

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.


Links

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)