Troubleshooters Special Report: Justice of the Peace

Posted at 9:22 PM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2019-06-24 16:14:41-04

A Nueces County Justice of the Peace, an elected official, is facing serious allegations. 
The Troubleshooters have confirmed that Precinct 2 Place One JP Jo Woolsey is being investigated by the Texas Supreme Court’s Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee.
The investigation is the result of a complaint, filed against Woolsey, for allegedly accepting attorney’s fees in other JP courts when she’s not licensed to practice law in Texas.

There are 9 Justices of the Peace, who are elected by, and serve, Nueces County voters for 4 year terms. 
They hear cases like small claims up to $10,000.00, traffic tickets, hot checks, minors in possession, truancy, and evictions.
But they do not have court reporters, so they are not courts of record.

Some justices have legal backgrounds, but according to Thelma Rodriguez, the presiding JP judge, the only necessary requirements they really have to meet are that they be 18 years old and a registered voter.  
"You don’t have to have a legal background or any type of a license, or you don’t have to be an attorney," she told us.

The Texas Property Code says plaintiffs can be represented in court cases by an authorized agent.  That person does not have to be an attorney.
The State Bar of Texas and the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee confirmed for the Troubleshooters that if you are not an attorney, licensed to practice law in Texas, you can not request or receive attorneys fees.
They also confirmed that Precinct 2 Place 1 Judge Jo Woolsey, who was elected in 2016, is not a licensed attorney. 
Yet court documents show that in at least one case, Woolsey requested, and was granted $500.00 in attorneys fees.

The UPLC of the Texas Supreme Court confirmed to us that in February, they received a complaint about Woolsey collecting attorneys fees.  And that she had done so on multiple occasions.  So they launched an investigation.  
On March 19th, the Troubleshooters sent out Open Records Requests to the justices, asking for "any/all cases heard before your court from January 2017-February 2018 where Jo Woolsey, acting as a representative for a plaintiff/or Woolsey Legal Services, requested/and was awarded attorney’s fees from court."

Justices who responded said we were welcome to go to their offices and check their case files. 
Rodriguez said "well I wondered why that was asked, but I…it never dawned on me that that was the allegation.  That it was because they were asking for attorney’s fees."  

On April 16th the Troubleshooters requested an on-camera interview with Woolsey about the complaint.
She never replied to our request.
We tried again Thursday.  "Asking for an interview with Miss Woolsey today.  She’s not here today ?  Ok."

Thru her attorney, Woolsey has responded to the UPLC on April 5th, saying neither she, nor her company, Woolsey Legal Services, has done any work in Nueces County since January 1st 2017.
And that when they did appear in the justice courts, they did so, acting only as authorized agents, and in eviction cases only.

Woolsey has not been charged nor found guilty of anything at this point.  
But Judge Rodriguez wonders what ‘could’ happen.  "It all depends on the allegations whether it’s going to be considered a crime.  Whether there will be actual charges now filed on that individual judge based on what the allegation is.  And what the finding is or whether the judge is guilty or not." 

The UPLC has not issued a judgment in this case.  They did say that a worst case scenario would be them issuing Woolsey an injunctive relief, a court-ordered prohibition against an act or condition which has been requested.
If the injunctive order isn’t followed, then there would be other more serious consequences .