The Justice of the Peace is the legal jurisdiction closest to the average citizen. Section 19 of Article 5 of the Texas Constitution provides that justice of the peace courts have original jurisdiction in criminal matters in misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only and other jurisdiction as may be provided by law.
Original jurisdiction is the authority to accept a case at its inception, try it, and pass judgment based upon the laws and facts presented. This is distinguished from appellate jurisdiction, which is jurisdiction to review a court’s action.
A Justice of the Peace may issue warrants for search and arrest, conduct preliminary hearings, administer oaths, and serve as a coroner in counties where there is no provision for a medical examiner. The justice court also functions as a small claims court in civil matters in which exclusive jurisdiction is not in district or county court and the amount in controversy does not exceed $20,000.