Office of House Bill AnalysisS.B. 909
By: Shapiro
Judicial Affairs


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.  


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. 


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. 


September 1, 2001.