Lawyer suing El Paso County for jury duty fines

An El Paso lawyer is suing El Paso County for what he claims are illegal jury duty fees

An El Paso lawyer claims jury duty fines and court fees are illegal in El Paso.

Mark Davis, a lawyer in El Paso, has filed a lawsuit against the county for millions of dollars.

According to Davis, it all comes down to a jury fee court. Davis said that’s where many El Pasoans go to pay their jury duty fines if they fail to show up.

One El Pasoan had to deal with jury fee court and was surprised on how high is court fees were.

“I had jury duty and I completely forgot about it,” said Josh Luttrell. “They gave me a small minimal fee – about twenty dollars – and I didn’t think that was bad. Until I went to pay it, and there was a couple hundred more dollars of court costs racked up on top of that fine.”

Davis’ argument is that the jury fee court isn’t valid.

“These fees are illegal,” Davis said. “There’s no jury fee court. The only way a court can be formed in Texas is by the legislature. It has to be an act of legislature in Austin, that’s where all courts come from. And the legislature never created a jury fee court here in El Paso.”

Davis filed an open records request. He found on average 120,000 El Pasoans are called to jury duty each year.

“What I found is that 10 percent of them are fined for not showing up,” Davis said.

Davis told KFOX14 the jury court began in the 90s, then Davis said the judge overseeing the court realized it was illegal.

“Around 2015, when the judge found out it was probably at that time getting up to around five million dollars in jury duty fines and court fees,” Davis said. “This all started around the 90s, and they’re still doing it today. But they’re not adding court fees, just the jury duty fines.”

When Davis first brought this case to court, it was dismissed. Now, Davis is appealing the decision. His goal is to have the county pay back the people who paid those fines and court fees like Luttrell.

The county would not comment on the situation since it is an ongoing case.

However, a spokesperson for the county sent KFOX14 its legal position on the case.

According to the county, in Texas, governmental immunity provides counties with broad immunity from suit and liability. It also said, even if the judge committed error by assessing court costs or fees, the county is immune from the suit.

The county also claimed in its legal position that it did not take any affirmative action to extract improper fees from people.

Davis will argue his appeal on the case on June 8.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off