Rockwall District Court and County Court Plan
Prompt Magistration
9/25/2015

I.          Arresting Officers Responsibilities

 
  1. An arresting officer must complete and file the offense report and probable cause affidavit information AT THE TIME the defendant is booked into jail in order to assist the magistrate in a determination of probable cause.
 
  1. The arresting officer must appear, if requested by the Assistant District Attorney or by subpoena, at the magistrate’s probable cause hearing.
 

II.        Magistrate Responsibilities

 
  1. The magistrates of this county will inform supervisory personnel of all law enforcement agencies operating within the county that each time a person is arrested, Texas law requires the officer making the arrest and any officer who later has custody to ensure that the person is taken before a magistrate without unnecessary delay, and never more than 48 hours after arrest.
 
  1. The Rockwall County District Attorney’s office shall have a prosecutor available to be present at probable cause hearings representing the State of Texas if requested by the magistrate. The following information shall be available for the magistrate at the hearing:
 
1.      Copy of offense report
2.      Probable cause affidavit
3.      Probable cause evidence
4.      Prior criminal record of accused


C.     At the Magistrate Probable Cause hearing the responsible judge shall comply with Senate Bill 7 for:

 
1.      admonishing the accused of the magistrate and Miranda warnings as provided by law;
 
2.      notification of indigent representation rights;
 
3.      making of record of the magistrate warnings and right to court appointed counsel for indigent accused persons;
 
4.      notification of right to counsel and right to court appointed counsel if indigent;
 
5.      inquiry as to whether the defendant is requesting court appointed counsel;
 
6.      provide defendant with an Affidavit of Indigence and reasonable assistance in completing said forms; and
 
7.      refer to and transmit to the District Judge or County Judge for appointment of counsel depending upon the level of offense within 24 hours.

D.  For persons arrested on out-of-county warrants, the magistrate will ask the defendant if he/she would like to request appointed counsel. The magistrate will record the response, and if counsel is requested, the magistrate will provide the arrestee with the appropriate forms for requesting counsel. The magistrate will ensure assistance in completing the forms at the same time. The forms will be transmitted to the appointing authority in the county issuing the warrant within 24 hours of the request being made.

Indigence Determination Standards
11/12/2010
Procedures and Financial Standards for Determining Indigent Status
 
  1. At the Magistrate’s Probable Cause Hearing, each defendant shall be provided an opportunity to request court appointed counsel, if indigent.  Each requesting defendant shall complete and file a sworn Affidavit of Indigence with the Magistrate.  The Magistrate will ensure reasonable assistance in completing the necessary forms for requesting appointment of counsel.  If the defendant does not speak and/or understand the English language or is deaf, the magistrate shall inform the person in a manner consistent with Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 38.30 and 38.31.
 
  1. The magistrate shall transmit the Probable Cause Order, the Affidavit of Indigence, and Defendant’s Request for Court Appointed Counsel to the County Court Judge in misdemeanor cases and to the District Court Judge in felony cases.
 
  1. The judge making court appointments for counsel for indigents shall review the affidavit of indigence and such other information bearing on the financial status of the defendant and make a determination of indigent status and appoint counsel where required by law within 3 working days after receiving the request for court appointed counsel.  The arrested person may be required to respond to examination regarding the person’s financial resources.
 
  1. The judge making court appointments for counsel for indigents shall consider the following standards for determining indigence and such other reasonable factors as the court finds bearing on the financial inability of a defendant to retain counsel:
 
1.      Defendant’s income from any and all sources and whether the defendant's net household income exceeds 100% of the Poverty Guidelines as revised annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and published in the Federal Register.
 
2.      Sources of the defendant’s income;
 
3.      Assets of the defendant;
 
4.      Property owned by the defendant, or in which the defendant has an interest;
 
5.      Outstanding obligations of the defendant;
 
6.      Necessary expenses of the defendant;
 
7.      The number and age of the defendant’s legal dependents;
 
8.      Spousal income available to the defendant; and
 
9.      Such other reasonable factors as determined by the judge.
 
E.     The judge shall not consider whether the defendant has posted bail, except to the extent that it reflects on the defendant’s financial circumstances.
 
  1. If the Court determines that an individual has financial resources that enable him or her to offset part of the costs of legal services provided, the court may order partial payment of the costs of representation.  In addition, if a defendant pleads or is found guilty the court may order the defendant to comply with a payment schedule to reimburse all indigent defense costs in the case.
 
G.    A defendant’s status as indigent or not indigent may be reviewed in a formal hearing at any stage of a court proceeding based on evidence of a material change in the defendant’s financial circumstances.
Minimum Attorney Qualifications
10/11/2013
Section I:      General Principles of Eligibility.
Eligibility.       The following standards shall be applied to attorney certification under any part of these standards related to criminal law.
 
1.            Eligibility.  The attorney shall be familiar with the practice and procedures of the criminal courts of Texas, and shall be a member in good standing of the State Bar of Texas.  Practice before a juvenile court shall be considered as experience in criminal litigation for the  purpose of these standards.  Pro bono service shall also be considered as experience for the purpose of these standards. Attorneys must be approved by a majority of the judges in order to be placed on the appointment list.
 
2.            Evidentiary Matters.  The attorney shall be familiar with the Texas Rules of Evidence and shall have knowledge of the use of expert witnesses and evidence, including, but not limited to, psychiatric and forensic evidence.
 
3.            Co-Counsel.  If the Court appoints co-counsel for any offense, it shall be at the discretion of the Court as to the qualification of counsel.
 
4.            Continuing Training.  To maintain annual certification, successful completion of a minimum of eight (8) hours of training in the State Bar of Texas in criminal law, ethics, evidence, or trial practice.  This is an annual calendar year requirement with reporting each January by the presentation of an affidavit presented prior to January 31 of each year.  A failure to present the affidavit shall cause an attorney to be subject to removal from the list of those eligible for appointment.  In addition, to maintain eligibility, all attorneys shall conduct themselves in an ethical and professional manner.
 
5.         Attorney Reporting.  An attorney shall submit by October 15th each year a statement that describes the percentage of the attorney's practice time that was dedicated to work based on appointments accepted in this county for adult criminal cases and juvenile delinquency cases for the prior 12 months that begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. The report must be submitted through the online form to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission/form prescribed by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to the court administration office in the county.

 
Section II:     Capital Offenses.
In order to serve as lead counsel in a capital offense where the State of Texas is seeking the death sentence, an attorney must meet the following:
 
1.            Exhibit proficiency and commitment to providing quality representation to defendants in death penalty cases.
 
2.            Have five (5) years experience in criminal litigation.
 
3.            Have tried to verdict as lead counsel a significant number of felony cases, including homicide trials and other trials for offenses punishable as second or first degree felonies or capital felonies.
 
4.            Have trial experience in the use of and challenges to health or forensic expert witnesses and investigating and presenting mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of a death penalty trial.
 
5.            Have participated in continuing legal education relating to death penalty criminal defense.
 
Section III:    Capitol offenses where death penalty is not sought by State of Texas and 1st degree felonies and co-counsel for capital offenses where the State is seeking death penalty.  (This category also includes enhanced felonies which carry a first degree range of punishment.)
 
In order to be eligible for appointment in the above described offenses, an attorney must meet the following criteria:
 
1.            Have four (4) years experience in criminal litigation.
 
2.            Have tried to verdict as lead counsel for the defense or the prosecution at least three (3) trials of any grade of felony.  At least two (2) of these trials must be jury trials.
 
Section IV:    Second and Third Degree Felonies.  (This category includes enhanced State Jail felonies.)
 
In order to be eligible for appointment in the above described offenses, an attorney must meet the following criteria:
 
1.            Have at least two (2) years of experience in criminal litigation.
 
2.            Have tried to verdict as lead counsel for the defense or the prosecution  at least two (2) trials of any State Jail felonies or A or B misdemeanor.  At least one (1) of these trials must be a jury trial.
 
Section V:     State Jail Felony and Felony Probation Revocations
 
In order to be eligible for appointment in the above described offenses, an attorney must meet the following criteria:
 
·         Have at least one (1) year experience in criminal and/or civil litigation, which may include juvenile practice.
 
 
Section VI:    Class A/B Misdemeanors and Misdemeanor Probation Revocations
 
In order to be eligible for appointment in the above described offenses an attorney must meet the following criteria: 
 
·         Have at least six (6) months experience in criminal and/or civil litigation which may include juvenile practice.
 
 
Section VII:   Appellate Counsel - Felony
 
In order to serve as appellate counsel for capital offenses whether or not death penalty has been assessed and in 1st degree felonies as defined in Section III, an attorney shall:
 
1.            Have three (3) years of experience in criminal litigation and;
 
2.            Have filed a brief and/or argued two (2) cases before the Courts of Appeal of Texas, the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals or United States Supreme Court.
 
In all other felonies an attorney shall have one (1) year experience in appellate practice and procedure and filed a brief and/or argued a case before the Courts of Appeal for the State of Texas, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, Fifth Circuit court of Appeals and/or United States Supreme Court or shall have two (2) years of general experience in criminal litigation.
 
Section VIII:  Writ Counsel
 
In capital felonies where the death penalty has been assessed, appointed counsel for any writ of habeas corpus must possess the following qualifications:
 
1.            The attorney must have three (3) years criminal litigation experience and;
 
2.            The attorney must have filed a brief and/or argued before the Courts of Appeal of the State of Texas, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the US District Court, the Texas Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit and/or the United States Supreme Court.
 
For all other grades of offenses, counsel for writs of habeas corpus shall have at least one (1) year’s experience in criminal or civil litigation.
 
Section IX:    Misdemeanor Appellate
 
·         In order to be eligible for appointment an attorney shall have at least one (1) year experience in appellate practice and procedures.
 
Prompt Appointment of Counsel
9/25/2015
The judge making court appointments for counsel for indigents shall review the affidavit of indigence and such other information bearing on the financial status of the defendant and make a determination of indigent status and appoint counsel where required by law within 3 working days after receiving the request for court appointed counsel.  The arrested person may be required to respond to examination regarding the person’s financial resources. If the defendant is released from custody prior to the appointment of counsel, the appointment of counsel is not required until the defendant's first court appearance or when adversarial judicial proceedings are initiated, whichever comes first. If a defendant appears without counsel in any adversary proceeding, the court shall advise the defendant of the right to counsel and the procedure for requesting counsel. If an indigent defendant is arrested in another county based on this county’s warrant, counsel will be appointed within three working days of this county’s receipt of the request for counsel. If a defendant is arrested in this county based on another county’s warrant, counsel will be appointed for the defendant if, on the eleventh day after the arrest, the defendant is still in this county’s custody. If a defendant wishes to request counsel prior to the initial appearance, the forms required to request counsel may be obtained at the Texas Indigent Defense Commission's website at http://tidc.tamu.edu/public.net/ or from the magistrate at the Rockwall Copunty Detention Center. The defendant may submit these forms to the Magistrate at the Rockwall County Detention Center if incarcerated or to the court coordinator for the corresponding court. The court will rule on all requests for counsel submitted in this manner.
Attorney Selection Process
11/24/2009
VI.       List of Eligible Attorneys for Service as Court Appointed Counsel for Indigent Accused Persons in District Court and County Court Cases
 
  1. The District Judge of Rockwall County shall approve a list of eligible attorneys on or before January 1 of each year and such list shall be posted outside of the District Clerk’s offices and available to the public upon request.
 
  1. The County Judge of Rockwall County shall approve a list of eligible attorneys on or before January 1 of each year and such list shall be posted outside of the County Clerk’s offices and available to the public upon request.
 
  1. The appointing judge will appoint the lawyer whose name appears next in order on the public appointment list that corresponds to the most serious offense as currently charged, unless: 
 
  1. the person making the appointment exercises discretionary authority to appoint one of the attorneys whose name is among the next five names in order on the appropriate list; or
 
  1. the person making the appointment enters a written finding of good cause on the record for appointing any qualified, willing attorney regardless of whether the attorney’s name is among the first five names on the appropriate list.
 

VII.     Non-Capital Felony Appointment Procedures and Rules

 
The District Court Judge, upon any finding of indigence and request for Court appointed counsel, shall sign an Order Appointing Counsel and deliver same to the attorney.  The staff of the District Court Judge shall immediately contact the attorney by phone, fax, or in person and notify said attorney of the appointment and the last known location of the defendant.   In the event the District Court Judge is out of the county or otherwise unavailable, the County Court Judge shall have the authority to make the appointment.
 

VIII.    Capital Felony Appointment Procedures and Rules

 
The District Court Judge, upon any finding of indigent and request for Court appointed counsel, shall sign an Order Appointing Counsel and deliver same to the attorney.  The staff of the District Court Judge shall immediately contact the attorney by phone, fax, or in person and notify said attorney of the appointment and the last known location of the defendant.  In the event the District Court Judge is out of the county or otherwise unavailable, the County Court Judge shall have the authority to make the appointment.

 
IX.       Misdemeanor Appointment Procedures and Rules
 
The County Court Judge, upon any finding of indigence and request for Court appointed counsel, shall sign an Order Appointing Counsel and deliver same to the attorney.  The staff of the County Court Judge shall immediately contact the attorney by phone, fax, or in person and notify said attorney of the appointment and the last known location of the defendant.  In the event the County Court Judge is out of the county or otherwise unavailable, the District Court Judge shall have the authority to make the appointment.
 
Fee and Expense Payment Process
10/25/2019

X.  Compensation of Court Appointed Counsel - Fee and Expense Payment Process

1.      The county will pay appointed counsel compensation as approved by a Judge, according to the fee schedules which are reflected in the fee vouchers which are attached hereto as "Rockwall District Court Attorney Fee Voucher" and "Rockwall County Court Attorney Fee Voucher".  Said fee schedule is adopted pursuant to Article 26.05(b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

2.      Payments will not vary from the fee schedule except in extraordinary circumstances where the fee is shown to be manifestly inappropriate.  Approval of variance will require counsel to file and present a motion with the Court which documents in detail the extraordinary circumstances.

In the event a variance is approved, a per case adjustment for a pleal will not exceed the following additional amounts: 

  A per case adjustment related to trials will not exceed the following additional amounts:

3.  Fees paid to appointed counsel on capital murder cases or in cases where an attorney pro tem appointment becomes necessary shall be on an hourly basis in a range from a minimum of $100 to a maximum of $250, determined by the court, based on reasonableness and ncecessity.

4.  Payment Request Form.  In cases disposed of by a guilty plea or similar pre-trial disposition, Counsel shall submit their requests for payment on the approved Payment Request Form on the date of the disposition.  If the case is disposed of by trial, the Payment Request Form shall be submitted within seven days of the date the trial is concluded.  Payment requests not submitted within thirty days of the date of disposition shall not be approved by the Court, absent extenuating circumstances.  

5.  An attorney whose request for payment is disapproved may appeal the disapproval by filing a motion with the presiding judge of the administrative judicial region, as provided under Article 26.05(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

 
Investigative and Expert Expenses.
Counsel appointed in a non-capital case shall be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses, including expenses for investigation and for mental health and other experts.  Expenses incurred with and without prior court approval shall be reimbursed, according to the procedures set forth below.  When possible, prior court approval should be obtained before incurring expenses for investigation and for mental health and other experts.
 
Procedure With Prior Court Approval:
 
Appointed counsel may file with the trial court a pretrial ex parte confidential request for advance payment of investigative and expert expenses.  The request for expenses must state, as applicable:
 
(1) the type of investigation to be conducted or the type of expert to be retained;
(2) specific facts that suggest the investigation will result in admissible evidence or that the services of an expert are reasonably necessary to assist in the preparation of a potential defense; and
(3) an itemized list of anticipated expenses for each investigation or each expert.
 
The court shall grant the request for advance payment of expenses in whole or in part if the request is reasonable.  If the court denies in whole or in part the request for expenses, the court shall:
(1) state the reasons for the denial in writing;
(2) attach the denial to the confidential request; and
(3) submit the request and denial as a sealed exhibit to the record.
 
Procedure Without Prior Court Approval:
 
Appointed counsel may incur investigative or expert expenses without prior approval of the court.  On presentation of a claim for reimbursement, the court shall order reimbursement of counselor for the expenses, if the expenses are reasonably necessary and reasonably incurred.  Unreasonable or unnecessary expenses will not be approved.
 
Articles 26.05(d), 26.052(f), (g) & (h), Code of Criminal Procedure
 
Plan Documents
Rockwall District and County Court Affidavit of Indigence.doc (11/24/2009 11:15:22 AM) view
Rockwall District and County Court Attorney Application for Appointment.doc (2/20/2013 4:42:54 PM) view
Rockwall District and County Court COUNTY Attorney Fee Voucher.doc (9/25/2015 1:59:45 PM) view
Rockwall District and County Court DISTRICT Attorney Fee Voucher.doc (9/25/2015 1:59:45 PM) view
Rockwall District and County Court Magistrates Warning Form.doc (11/24/2009 11:14:49 AM) view
Rockwall District and County Court Waiver of Counsel.DOC (11/24/2009 11:16:33 AM) view