Attorney General Opinions

May 31, 2013

Legislative News

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TAC has highlighted recent Attorney General Opinions and Requests for Opinions of interest to counties. 

GA-1002: Whether a county auditor has a right to access inmate property in a county jail to compare it with inmate property receipts (RQ-1096-GASummary: Sections 112.006 and 115.001 of the Local Government Code authorize a county auditor to access inmate property that a sheriff stores at the county jail, subject to the sheriffs reasonable conditions on that access.

GA-1003: Whether the Texas Constitution prevents local political subdivisions from recognizing domestic partnerships by granting benefits previously only available to married couples (RQ-1097-GASummary: Article I, section 32 of the Texas Constitution prohibits political subdivisions from  creating a legal status of domestic partnership and recognizing that status by offering public benefits based upon it.

GA-1005: The appointment and compensation of temporary justices of the peace (RQ-1099-GASummary: Section 27.055 of the Government Code permits the appointment of one qualified person to serve as temporary justice of the peace to replace an individual justice of the peace who is unable to perform the duties of the office. Section 27.055 does not permit a county judge to appoint an "at large" temporary justice of the peace. A sitting justice of the peace may serve as a temporary justice of the peace under section 27.055, in place of a regular justice of the peace in the same county, provided the justice of the peace is a "qualified person."

The compensation of a temporary justice of the peace as outlined under section 27.055 of the Government Code does not conflict with section 27.054 of the Government Code or chapter 152 of the Local Government Code.
A court would likely conclude that a sitting justice of the peace who also serves as a temporary justice of the peace under section 27.055 does not violate article XVI, section 40 of the Texas Constitution.

GA-1006: Transportation Code section 502.010 and the reconciliation of Senate Bill 1386 and House Bill 2357 from the Eighty-second Legislature (RQ-1101-GASummary: Transportation Code section 502.010 authorizes certain counties to impose an additional fee of twenty dollars on a person who fails to pay a fine, fee or tax to the county or on a defendant who fails to appear in connection with a pending criminal proceeding. The commissioners court may determine whether a county imposes the additional fee and which county official or department assesses and collects that fee. If the commissioners court decides to impose the fee, the commissioners court may determine whether the officer charged with assessing and collecting the additional fee may waive it in particular circumstances. The additional fee may be imposed after the date on which the fine, fee or tax is due, and it may be assessed when a defendant fails to appear for a criminal proceeding but has not been convicted.

Requests for Attorney General Opinions

RQ-1123-GA: Mr. Robert Ed Sturdivant, Fort Bend County Auditor, Whether an individual may serve as county clerk when the individuals spouse serves as a justice of the peace in the same county.

RQ-1124-GA: The Honorable Robert Henneke, Kerr County Attorney, Whether an official court reporter appointed pursuant to Government Code section 52.041 is a state employee or a county employee.

RQ-1125-GA: The Honorable Jeri Yenne, Brazoria County Criminal District Attorney, Whether an employee with consistent but periodic delivery of employment services qualifies for the nepotism continuous-employment exception in Government Code section 573.062.

RQ-1127-GA: The Honorable Ryan Guillen, Chair, House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism, Texas House of Representatives, Whether landowners may be liable for the actions of law enforcement officers that occur on the landowners' property or for livestock that escape due to actions over which the landowners have no control.

RQ-1128-GA: The Honorable Ryan Guillen, Chair, House Committee on Culture, Recreation & Tourism, Texas House of Representatives, Whether a state employee may run for and assume an elected county office.