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Sec. 51.04: Jurisdiction

(a) This title covers the proceedings in all cases involving the delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision engaged in by a person who was a child within the meaning of this title at the time the person engaged in the conduct, and, except as provided by Subsection (h) or Section 51.0414, the juvenile court has exclusive original jurisdiction over proceedings under this title.

(b) In each county, the county's juvenile board shall designate one or more district, criminal district, domestic relations, juvenile, or county courts or county courts at law as the juvenile court, subject to Subsections (c), (d), and (i).

(c) If the county court is designated as a juvenile court, at least one other court shall be designated as the juvenile court. A county court does not have jurisdiction of a proceeding involving a petition approved by a grand jury under Section 53.045 of this code.

(d) If the judge of a court designated in Subsection (b) or (c) of this section is not an attorney licensed in this state, there shall also be designated an alternate court, the judge of which is an attorney licensed in this state.

(e) A designation made under Subsection (b), (c), or (i) may be changed from time to time by the authorized boards or judges for the convenience of the people and the welfare of children. However, there must be at all times a juvenile court designated for each county. It is the intent of the legislature that in selecting a court to be the juvenile court of each county, the selection shall be made as far as practicable so that the court designated as the juvenile court will be one which is presided over by a judge who has a sympathetic understanding of the problems of child welfare and that changes in the designation of juvenile courts be made only when the best interest of the public requires it.

(f) If the judge of the juvenile court or any alternate judge named under Subsection (b) or (c) is not in the county or is otherwise unavailable, any magistrate may make a determination under Section 53.02(f) or may conduct the detention hearing provided for in Section 54.01.

(g) The juvenile board may appoint a referee to make determinations under Section 53.02(f) or to conduct hearings under this title. The referee shall be an attorney licensed to practice law in this state and shall comply with Section 54.10. Payment of any referee services shall be provided from county funds.

(h) A judge exercising jurisdiction over a child in a suit instituted under Subtitle E, Title 5, may refer any aspect of a suit involving a dual status child that is instituted under this title to the appropriate associate judge appointed under Subchapter C, Chapter 201, serving in the county and exercising jurisdiction over the child under Subtitle E, Title 5, if the associate judge consents to the referral. The scope of an associate judge's authority over a suit referred under this subsection is subject to any limitations placed by the court judge in the order of referral.

(i) If the court designated as the juvenile court under Subsection (b) does not have jurisdiction over proceedings under Subtitle E, Title 5, the county's juvenile board may designate at least one other court that does have jurisdiction over proceedings under Subtitle E, Title 5, as a juvenile court or alternative juvenile court.


Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 1460, ch. 544, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1973. Amended by Acts 1975, 64th Leg., p. 1357, ch. 514, Sec. 1, eff. June 19, 1975; Acts 1975, 64th Leg., p. 2153, ch. 693, Sec. 5 to 7, eff. Sept. 1, 1975; Acts 1977, 65th Leg., p. 1112, ch. 411, Sec. 1, eff. June 15, 1977; Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 385, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1987; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 168, Sec. 4, eff. Aug. 30, 1993; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 232, Sec. 2, eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1297, Sec. 3, eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1514, Sec. 12, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.

Amended by:

Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 186 (S.B. 92), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2013.

Acts 2015, 84th Leg., R.S., Ch. 935 (H.B. 2398), Sec. 41(3), eff. September 1, 2015.

Acts 2019, 86th Leg., R.S., Ch. 660 (S.B. 1887), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2019.

Acts 2021, 87th Leg., R.S., Ch. 934 (H.B. 3774), Sec. 4.03, eff. September 1, 2021.