Constable 101

An introduction to the county constable's office

Barring the occasional controversy, Travis County constables typically maintain a low profile -- until election season, every four years. That's not to say they're not earning their $61,000 salary in the meantime. Who do you think is out there serving eviction notices or rounding up truants? Not the sheriff, certainly.

Locally, we've had constables in our midst since before Custer's Last Stand. According to the county's Planning and Budget Office, two constables were first appointed in January of 1823, back when we still called ourselves "Austin's Colony." These positions continued under the Texas Constitution. As the law now stands, counties of more than 50,000 people may be divided into four to eight precincts, with each precinct electing a constable.

In Travis County, a constable represents each of the five precincts. Each of the constables essentially carries out the same responsibilities of serving civil papers and Class C misdemeanor warrants issued by their respective justice of the peace courts, as well as the county courts and the district, probate, and juvenile courts. Because the Pct. 5 constable office is located in the county courthouse, that office has handled the bulk of the process work.

Under a new system designed to redistribute the workload and approved by Commissioners Court Jan. 15, that practice will soon change. Each constable will be responsible for serving those civil papers destined for their precinct. Some have called this a needless paper exercise, while others say it's a more efficient and equitable way of running the constable offices. What remains unchanged is that Pct. 5, because of its specialized staff, will continue to process the designated "hot" papers -- pertaining to domestic violence and child protective service cases -- throughout the county.

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Travis County, Planning and Budget Office, constable, Commissioners Court, Precinct 5, process serving

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