Do you know your local rules?

You might know that civil lawsuits in Texas are governed by a set of rules, the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, which are promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court.  Much like the federal rules, the Texas Rules (TRCP) cannot “abridge, enlarge, or modify the substantive rights of a litigant.”  But did you know that every court in Texas can also draft its own rules?

Known as “local rules” a court wishing to adopt its own rules must file copies of its local rules with the Supreme Court for approval, and those rules must be published at least 30 days before they are effective, in accordance with TRCP 3a(3) and (4).  Attorneys and parties operating within a court are charged with knowing its local rules.  Failing to familiarize yourself with the local rules can be damaging.

Consider one of the Dallas County District Courts’ local rules

2.03. JUDGMENTS AND DISMISSAL ORDERS
Within 30 days after the Court has announced a verdict or judgment or the Court receives a written announcement of settlement from either party or from a mediator, counsel shall submit to the Court a proposed judgment or dismissal order, unless ordered otherwise. Failure to so furnish the Court with such a proposed judgment or dismissal order will be interpreted to mean that counsel wish the Court to enter an Order of Dismissal with prejudice with costs taxed at the Judge’s discretion. (Emphasis supplied).

That’s a pretty hefty rule.  If the parties notify the court they are settling, but don’t furnish a proposed judgment of order in a timely fashion, the court will dismiss the action with prejudice!  In other words, the plaintiff won’t get to file another lawsuit, and his or her only remedy is on appeal.  This is the sort of trap that could be fatal to a pro se plaintiff, or an unwary attorney.

Moral of the story:  read the local rules!

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