During the state fiscal year 1998, municipal courts operated in 848 Texas cities. Section 71.035 of the Texas Government Code and Sections 171.1 and 171.2 of the Texas Administrative Code require each court to submit a monthly activity report to the Texas Judicial Council. Statewide, the Council received 9,425 reports out of a possible 10,176 for the year (a 93 percent reporting rate).
Revenue collected by the reporting courts totaled $368,906,631 for the year, a 15 percent increase over the previous year. The amount of revenue per disposition, excluding dismissals, averaged $102.25 The courts deposit this revenue in the treasury of the city where the court has jurisdiction; however, certain court costs on each case are remitted to special funds of the State.
Traffic Cases Dominate Dockets; Non-Traffic Cases Increasing
Traffic cases comprised 82 percent of the total cases filed in the reporting courts during the year; non-traffic criminal cases accounted for the other 18 percent of the cases filed. As Figure 1 below indicates, the docket composition for the municipal courts has changed slowly, with non-traffic misdemeanors becoming a larger part of the total caseload.
While the number of non-traffic misdemeanors filed in fiscal year 1998 rose only 4 percent over 1997 filings, the number has increased approximately 86 percent over filings 10 years ago. During this time, cases involving state law violations have increased 88 percent and cases involving violations of city ordinance have risen 78 percent.
Compared to non-traffic misdemeanor cases, traffic misdemeanors have risen only slightly since 1989. The 5,852,383 traffic cases filed in 1998 reflected an increase of less than 12 percent over the 5,236,719 traffic cases filed in 1989. This marginal increase is attributable to a 21 percent increase in non-parking misdemeanors and a 15 percent decrease in parking misdemeanors over the same 10 year period.
In fiscal year 1998, state law violations made up 81 percent of all non-traffic misdemeanors filed, with violations of city ordinance comprising the remaining 19 percent. These filings increased three percent and eight percent, respectively, over 1997 filings.
Traffic cases filed during fiscal year 1998 marked an increase of approximately 2
percent over traffic filings in the previous year. Non-parking misdemeanors comprised 81
percent of all traffic misdemeanors filed with the remaining 19 percent for parking
violations. Non-parking misdemeanors accounted for 66 percent of all cases filed.
The reporting municipal judges achieved a clearance rate of (total cases disposed / total cases added) of 95 percent. Total dispositions for traffic and non-traffic misdemeanors increased 13 percent to 6,725,706 for the year ended August 31, 1998, compared to the 5,949,622 total dispositions in fiscal year 1997.
As Figure 2 below indicates, the majority of fiscal year 1998 case dispositions, 56 percent, occurred prior to trial. Most of these dispositions, 65 percent, were by payment of fine. Of the remaining 1,114,485 cases that went to trial and were not dismissed, 99 percent were tried before a judge alone. Jury trials disposed of 8,811 cases. Of all cases receiving final judgment at trial (excluding cases dismissed at trial), 96 percent received a guilty verdict.
Appeals Continue to Decrease
The number of appeals filed as a percentage of all cases disposed at trial for fiscal year 1998 continued a declining trend. Approximately seven percent of dispositions at trial resulted in appeals during fiscal year 1993, while appeals resulted in about one percent of dispositions at trial during fiscal year 1998. Figure 3 below displays the trend for the last 15 years.
Corresponding to this declining trend, the total number of appeals filed has been decreasing while the number of cases disposed of at trial has been increasing. The 23,209 cases appealed in 1998 showed a decrease of seven percent from the number of cases appealed in fiscal year 1997 and a remarkable decrease of 68 percent from the number of cases appealed in 1993. Cases disposed at trial have increased over 85 percent since 1993; the change from 1997 was an increase of 16 percent.
The municipal judges, in their capacity as state magistrate, accepted 68,306 complaints within the jurisdiction of the county court and 28,090 complaints within the jurisdiction of the district courts (felonies). The number of county court complaints accepted increased eight percent over the number accepted in fiscal year 1997; the number of district court complaints accepted increased almost five percent over the previous fiscal year.
Return to 1998 Annual Report