Trial by Special Judge

Special Judge in the CPRC

Chapter 151 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code allows for an alternative form of dispute resolution called a trial by Special Judge.

This is a procedure where both parties agree, with the trial court’s approval, to hire a qualified former judge who has served at least four years in a district or county court to determine all or part their dispute.

The Special Judge charges a fee that is paid equally by the parties and conducts a trial in the same manner as a court trying an issue without a jury. The Texas Rules of Evidence and Texas Rules of Civil Procedure apply in the proceeding and a record of the hearing is made by a certified court reporter.

After hearing the evidence and arguments of counsel, the Special Judge renders a verdict and the referring district court performs the ministerial act of entering judgment on the basis of such a verdict. This judgment may be appealed in the same manner as any other judgment of a district or county court.

If you agreed to arbitration, you can agree to trial by Special Judge

Arbitration is a matter of contract. Just as parties have the power to agree to arbitration as the forum to resolve their dispute, they can agree not to use arbitration as previously agreed and substitute in its place a trial by Special Judge under the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code.

A Superior Alternative to Arbitration

Compared to arbitration, trial by Special Judge offers both parties a more flexible, less costly and less time intensive way to resolve a dispute – while substantially reducing risk.

The primary benefits of trial by Special Judge include:

  1. The right of appeal is preserved all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.
  2. The refering district court does not “confirm” the Special Judge’s verdict and does not review it. The district court performs the “ministerial act” of signing a judgment.
  3. The Special Judge must have at least four years of experience as a Texas district, appellate or county judge. Therefore, the parties can learn about the judge’s history in similar matters.
  4. The Texas Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure apply to the trial. A certified court reporter records the proceedings.
  5. Parties to an arbitration agreement could agree to substitute the Special Judge procedure to resolve their dispute.
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Frequently Asked Questions

To Get Started

Contact Judge Downey’s office to schedule an initial phone conversation.

If a trial by Special Judge is agreeable to all parties, Judge Downey will coordinate with counsel to set a mutually convenient time and place for the trial and will provide the initial documentation required by the trial court.

Once the trial court has entered an agreed order, Judge Downey will provide a letter of instruction setting deadlines for the exchange of stipulations, proposed trial exhibits, identification of contested issues and filing of each party’s Motion for Requested Relief.

Prior to trial, a telephone conference will be scheduled to discuss any unresolved issues or objections and, if necessary, a pretrial hearing will be set to hear objections to exhibits and any remaining pre-trial matters.