The Texas Judicial System The Texas judicial system has been called one of the most complex in the United States

The Texas Judicial System

The Texas judicial system has been called one of the most complex in the United States, if not the world. It features five layers of courts, several instances of overlapping jurisdiction, and a bifurcated appellate system at the top level. The structure of the system is laid out in Article 5 of the Texas Constitution.

The Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Appeals has a bifurcated appellate system at the highest level. Civil case appeals by the Texas Supreme Court, which also maintains the responsibility for licensing attorneys. For appeals on criminal cases those got to The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In times where the Death Penalty is in question cases are …show more content…
There are 14 courts of appeal and two of them are located in Houston the 1st and 14th Courts, both having concurrent jurisdiction over the same counties cases are to be assigned on a random selection basis but may be moved in order to equalize the docket. Also the 6th and 12th courts in East Texas, appellate districts overlap in four counties Gregg, Rusk, Upshur, and Wood. The set up in the East Texas districts has been heavily criticized as being friendly to “forum shopping.”

The following the districts and cities they are located:

1st Houston, 2nd Fort Worth, 3rd Austin. 4th San Antonio, 5th Dallas, 6th Texarkana, 7th Amarillo, 8th El Paso, 9th Beaumont, 10th Waco, 11th Eastland, 12th Tyler, 13th Corpus Christi/Edinburgh, 14th Houston.
The state trial courts of general jurisdiction are the district courts. The district court has exclusive jurisdiction on felony cases, as well as divorce cases, cases involving title to land, and election contest cases. It shares jurisdiction with the county courts, and in some case justice of the peace courts, for civil cases the lowest limit for hearing a case is a mere $200 in controversy, while in Justice of the Peace courts can hear cases up to $5,000. In a “catchall” provision it hears all cases in which jurisdiction is not placed in another trial court.
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The Texas Judicial System The Texas Judicial System The Texas judicial system has been called one of the most complex in the United States, if not the world. It features five layers of courts, several instances of overlapping jurisdiction, and a bifurcated appellate system at the top level. The structure of the system is laid out in Article 5 of the Texas Constitution. The Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Appeals has a bifurcated appellate system at the highest level. Civil case appeals by the Texas Supreme Court, which also maintains the responsibility for licensing attorneys. For appeals on criminal cases those got to The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. In times where the Death Penalty is in question cases are automatically and directly appealed to this court, bypassing the intermediate appellate court level. Jurisdictions between the two are not shared; all civil cases go to the Texas Supreme Court hears all civil cases while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals hears all criminal cases. However, there is one area where the Texas Supreme Court impacts criminal law which is juvenile law. Juvenile proceedings are considered civil in nature; so, the Supreme Court hears such cases. As a general rule, the Texas Supreme Court defers to the Court of Criminal Appeals when it comes to interpreting the Texas Penal Code in juvenile cases. The state of Oklahoma and Texas are the only states where this type of appellate system is at the highest level. The state of Texas has 14 Courts of Appeals, which have intermediate appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. Each court has between three and 13 justices there are a total of 80, the number is set by local statute. All cases are heard by a three-justice panel unless a hearing en banc is ordered. The Texas Legislature is who determines which counties are assigned to a court, and they have shifted counties between courts to balance the docket. As I stated before in times where the Death Penalty is in question cases are automatically and directly to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, bypassing this court of intermediate appellate jurisdiction. There are 14 courts of appeal and two of them are located in Houston the 1st and 14th Courts, both having concurrent jurisdiction over the same counties cases are to be assigned on a random selection basis but may be moved in order to equalize the docket. Also the 6th and 12th courts in East Texas, appellate districts overlap in four counties Gregg, Rusk, Upshur, and Wood. The set up in the East Texas districts has been heavily criticized as being friendly to “forum shopping.” The following the districts and cities they are located: 1st Houston, 2nd Fort Worth, 3rd Austin. 4th San Antonio, 5th Dallas, 6th Texarkana, 7th Amarillo, 8th El Paso, 9th Beaumont, 10th Waco, 11th Eastland, 12th Tyler, 13th Corpus Christi/Edinburgh, 14th Houston. The state trial courts of general jurisdiction are the district courts. The district court has exclusive jurisdiction on felony cases, as well as divorce cases, cases involving title to land, and election contest cases. It shares jurisdiction with the county courts, and in some case justice of the peace courts, for civil cases the lowest limit for hearing a case is a mere $200 in controversy, while in Justice of the Peace courts can hear cases up to $5,000. In a “catchall” provision it hears all cases in which jurisdiction is not placed in another trial court. Some smaller counties in Texas share a district court, while larger counties have multiple district courts, which in some cases specialize in civil, criminal, family law or juvenile matters. Unlike the lower levels, district court judges are required to be licensed attorneys. Due to this, defendants in counties which only have the traditional constitutional county court may elect to have their cases transferred to a district court to be heard by a judge with a law degree. This right is not afforded to criminal defendants in counties where there is a county court at law. Moreover, district judges may remove county officials, officials of a general-law municipality, and municipal court judges under certain circumstances. District Judges also may exercise administrative power. They appoint and supervise the county auditor and oversee the operations of the adult and juvenile probation offices. Finally, the Texas Constitution grants them supervisory jurisdiction over the county commissioner’s court. The Texas Constitution requires each county to have one constitutional county court. This court is presided over by a county judge, who is elected at-large by the voters of the county. The county court has appellate jurisdiction over Justice of the Peace and municipal court cases. For municipal court cases, if the municipal court is not a court of record this may involve a trial of de novo. The county court has exclusive jurisdiction over misdemeanors both Class A and Class B these offenses often involve jail time, and concurrent jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in controversy is moderately sized. There is no requirement that the judge of the Constitutional County Court be an attorney. The county judge is also responsible for presiding over the Commissioners Court which is the main executive and legislative body of the county. In most counties the Texas Legislature has established county courts at law. In most counties with courts at law, the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the constitutional county court has been transferred to the county courts at law. County court at law judges are required to be attorneys. The Texas Constitution grants the Legislature the authority to determine which court handles probate matters. Ten of the largest 15 counties, the Legislature has established a (SPC) Statutory Probate Court, which handle matters of probate, guardianship, and commitments to a state mental hospital. Each county by law is required to have at least one justice of the peace court the most populous counties may have as many as 16 if the county is divided into between one and eight precincts, and each precinct may have either one or two JP’s. These courts handle small claims cases exclusively, issue marriage licenses exclusively, and handle “Class C” misdemeanor cases these normally involve fines only and no jail time on an exclusive basis in all areas except those where a city has a municipal court; in those instances jurisdiction is concurrent. The Justice of the Peace also serves as coroner for cities that have no medical examiner. These areas are generally rural areas. The Legislature allows for the creation of municipal courts in each incorporated city in Texas, with the cities voters are the approval for creating such court. Within the city limits, these courts have shared jurisdiction with the Justice of the Peace courts only on Class C misdemeanor cases and on civil cases involving some dangerous dogs, and have exclusive jurisdiction on cases involving city ordinances. Municipal and Justice of the Peace court cases are appealed to the county court level. As a general rule, the municipal courts are normally not courts of record which have no written transcript of the proceedings that were taken, and with that an appeal would have to require a whole new trial (a trial de novo). This proved to be a major loophole for some defendants in traffic cases, who betted on the officer not being able to attend, and thus having the case dismissed. Furthermore, the de novo trials crowded the dockets of already busy county courts at law. Many major cities such as those in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Austin, El Paso, have chosen to convert their municipal courts to courts of record which required voter approval to close this loophole.