HBA-KDB S.B. 909 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisS.B. 909 By: Shapiro Judicial Affairs 5/10/2001 Engrossed BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Currently, the Government Code provides for the appointment and authority of court masters in Dallas County, including the authority of special masters to hear matters referred to them for civil proceedings. There is some confusion regarding the authority of court masters and the procedures for the most efficient execution of justice. Senate Bill 909 clarifies the court master program in Dallas County by amending provisions relating to the designation of certain judicial functions, immunity, powers and duties, and appeals. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY 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. ANALYSIS Senate Bill 909 amends the Government Code to authorize the judges in Dallas County to appoint one or more full-time associate judges, rather than a full-time master, for civil suits, rather than tax suits and other matters. The bill provides that an associate judge must be at least be 25 years of age and have practiced law in this state for at least four years preceding the date of appointment. The bill provides that an associate judge has the same judicial immunity as a district judge. The bill authorizes a judge to refer any civil case or portion of a civil case to an associate judge for resolution. The bill prohibits a party from objecting to such a referral to an associate judge. The bill authorizes an associate judge to conduct a trial on the merits on the agreement of all parties and the consent of the referring court. The bill provides that a case may be referred to an associate judge by an order of referral in a specific case or by an omnibus order. The bill provides that, unless limited by published local rule, by written order, or by order of referral, an associate judge has the same authority as the referring judge to perform any act necessary for the proper resolution of the matter referred. The bill authorizes a party, the associate judge, or the referring court to provide a court reporter for a hearing conducted by an associate judge. The bill requires a record of a hearing conducted by an associate judge to be preserved by a tape recorder provided by the associate judge or by another method approved by the associate judge or the referring court. The bill authorizes an associate judge or the referring court to impose as costs the expenses incurred in preserving a record. The bill sets forth provisions relating to the notice of an associate judge's decision, an appeal of such a decision, and the continuing education of an associate judge. The bill repeals provisions requiring a master to transmit papers to the referring judge, relating to a master's fees, an order of referral, a master's powers, and judicial action on a master's report. The bill also repeals provisions entitling a party to a hearing before the referring judge after receiving notice of a master's findings, relating to a master's finding and recommendations becoming the decree of the court, and requiring a master to refer the case back to the referring court for a full hearing if a jury trial is demanded. EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.