Cases & Deals

Indigent litigants win access-to-justice case in Texas Supreme Court

Clients Indigent litigants

Jones Day, working with public interest and other co-counsel on behalf of indigent litigants, obtained an important access-to-justice victory in the Texas Supreme Court. The court unanimously ruled that a Texas district clerk cannot force litigants to pay court costs when they have met the requirements of indigency under Texas law. A Texas district court had issued a temporary injunction against the clerk's unlawful collection practice, but the Fort Worth Court of Appeals reversed on jurisdictional grounds.

In a unanimous opinion, the Texas Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, writing for the court, rejected the jurisdictional challenge and approved the district court's broad, prospective injunction against the clerk's collection policy. Recognizing the clerk's actions as a "systematic policy that contravenes the law," the court explained that the protection for indigent litigants from having to pay court costs, which appears in Rule 145 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, is "but one manifestation" of the Texas Constitution's guarantee of open courts to all persons. The court also clarified that it would be an abuse of discretion for a judge to thwart that constitutional imperative by ordering indigent litigants to pay court costs.

Campbell v. Wilder, 487 S.W.3d 146 (Tex. 2016)