Office of House Bill Analysis   S.B. 611
By: Ogden
Judicial Affairs


Under current law, a person who has been arrested must appear before a
magistrate in a timely fashion.  Current conditions in Williamson County
have created difficulties in meeting this requirement.  S.B. 611 bill
allows criminal court judges in Williamson County to appoint persons to
perform the duties now performed by the jail magistrates, together with
such other duties as the judges see fit, and authorizes the appointment of
criminal magistrates for Williamson County and sets forth the duties of
criminal magistrates. 


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state
officer, department, agency or institution. 


SECTION 1. Amends Chapter 54, Government Code, by adding Subchapter P, as


Sec.  54.951.  APPOINTMENT.  (a)  Authorizes the judges of the district
courts and statutory county courts having criminal jurisdiction in
Williamson County to select, by a majority vote, magistrates to serve the
Williamson County criminal courts.   

(b)  Requires the commissioners court to establish the minimum
qualifications, salary, benefits, and other compensation of each magistrate
position and requires the commissioners court to determine whether the
position is full or part-time.   

(c)  Establishes that a magistrate appointed under this section serves at
the pleasure of a majority of the judges making appointments under this

(d)  Authorizes a magistrate to concurrently serve as an associate judge,
referee, or master under another statute unless that statute prohibits
holding another judicial position, subject to commissioners court approval
of a magistrate's total compensation. 

Sec.  54.952.  JURISDICTION.  Provides that a magistrate has concurrent
criminal jurisdiction with the judges of the statutory county courts and
justice of the peace courts of Williamson County. 

Sec.  54.953.  POWERS AND DUTIES.  Provides that a magistrate has all of
the powers of a magistrate under the Code of Criminal Procedure and other
laws of this state, except as provided by Subsection (b), and authorizes a
magistrate to administer an oath for any purpose.   

(b)  Prohibits a magistrate who is not an attorney from issuing arrest and
search warrants.  
(c)  Requires a magistrate to give preference to performing the duties of a
magistrate under Article 15.17, Code of Criminal Procedure (Duties of
Arresting Officer and Magistrate). 
(d)  Authorizes a magistrate to enforce a prior judgment or order of a
justice court in a criminal case.  Authorizes a magistrate to exercise
concurrent criminal jurisdiction with a justice of the peace to dispose as
provided by law of certain cases, except for a trial on the merits
following a plea of not guilty, with the express authorization of the
justice of the peace.   

(e)  Authorizes the judges of the statutory county courts with criminal
jurisdiction to designate, by majority vote, one or more magistrates to
hold regular hearings to perform certain actions.   

(f)  Requires a magistrate to give preference to the case of an individual
held in county jail, in the hearings provided under Subsection (e).   

(g)  Authorizes the magistrate to inquire into a defendant's intended plea
to the charge and set the case for an appropriate hearing before a judge or
master.  Prohibits a statement by a defendant under these circumstances
concerning an intended plea from being admitted into evidence in any other
proceeding, except as provided by Subsection (d) or (h).   

(h)  Authorizes certain magistrates to accept pleas, direct supervision
officers to prepare presentence reports, and set cases for sentencing
before a judge or master, if a defendant pleads guilty, nolo contendere, or
true after being properly admonished. 

Sec.  54.954.  MASTERS IN CRIMINAL CASES.  (a)  Authorizes the judge of a
statutory county court with criminal jurisdiction in Williamson County to
designate a magistrate by written referral order to serve as a master in
connection with a criminal case pending before the court.  Requires the
magistrate to be qualified to serve as a judge of the court in order to be
qualified to serve as master.     

(b)  Authorizes a magistrate appointed to serve as master (master) to
consider any referred matter pending before the court but prohibits the
magistrate from conducting a trial on the merits following a plea of not

(c)  Authorizes a master to perform the following duties:  conducting a
hearing, regulating certain proceedings, compelling production of relevant
evidence, ruling on admissibility of evidence, issuing summons and
attachments for the appearance of witnesses, swearing and examining
witnesses, hearing evidence, making findings of fact, formulating
conclusions of law, recommending rulings, orders, or judgments, and
performing certain acts or taking certain measures to effect an order of

(d)  Prohibits a master from issuing a judgment or order, except as
provided by Subsection (c), but authorizes a master to only certify to the
referring court the master's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and
recommended judgment or order.   

(e)  Authorizes the defendant or the attorney representing the state to
obtain de novo review by the referring court if the de novo review is
requested in writing by a certain date, except as provided by Subsection
(g).  Requires a request for review to set out specifically complaints
regarding the master's findings of fact, conclusions of law, and
recommendations.  Provides that review is limited to the issues complained
of by one or both parties.   

(f)  Requires the referring court, if no request for review is received, to
enter a judgment or order not later than 10 days after the parties receive
notice that approves, modifies, corrects, rejects, reverses, or recommits
for further information the master's recommendation.  Provides that if no
action is taken within that time, the recommendation is considered
rejected, and requires the court to reconsider the matter de novo as if the
matter had not been referred.   

(g)  Authorizes a plea bargaining agreement between the state and the
defendant to  provide that both parties waive the right to review or appeal
of a master's sentencing recommendation.  Requires the waiver to be signed
by both parties and filed with the master.  Authorizes the defendant to
withdraw the plea if the master rejects the agreement. Authorizes the
referring judge to reject the recommendation of the master  and permit the
withdrawal of the plea or approve the agreement and immediately sign the
recommended judgment and sentence. 

Sec.  54.955.  JUDICIAL IMMUNITY.  Provides that a magistrate has the same
judicial immunity as a district judge. 

Sec.  54.956.  WITNESSES.  Provides that a witness who is sworn and who
appears before a magistrate is subject to the penalties for perjury and
aggravated perjury provided by law. Authorizes a referring court to fine or
imprison a witness or other court participant for failure to appear after
being summoned, refusal to answer questions, or other acts of direct
contempt before a magistrate. 

Sec.  54.957.  COURT REPORTER.  Requires the court, at the request of a
party, to provide a court reporter to record certain proceedings before a

Sec.  54.958.  COSTS OF MAGISTRATE.  Requires a court to determine whether
the nonprevailing party is able to defray the expense of the magistrate in
each case in which a magistrate is used.  Requires the court to tax the
expense as court costs if the court determines the party can pay all or a
portion of the expense.  

Sec.  54.959.  SHERIFF.  Requires the sheriff, in person or by deputy, to
assist the magistrate, on request of the magistrate. 

Sec.  54.960.  CLERK.  (a)  Provides that the district clerk serves as
clerk for a magistrate for a case under the jurisdiction of a district

(b)  Provides that the county clerk serves as clerk for a magistrate for a
case under the jurisdiction of a statutory county court.   

(c)  Provides that a clerk of a justice court serves as the clerk for a
magistrate for a case under the jurisdiction of a justice court. 

Sec.  54.961.  STAFF.  Requires the commissioners court to provide a staff
to perform the clerical functions for the magistrates. 

SECTION 2. Amends Article 2.09, Code of Criminal Procedure, to include the
magistrates appointed by the judges of the district and statutory county
courts of Williamson County, among those officers considered magistrates
under this code. 

SECTION 3. Emergency clause.
  Effective date: upon passage.