Texas has 14 Courts of Appeals , which have intermediate appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases. Death penalty cases, however, are automatically appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and thus skip the intermediate tier in the appellate court hierarchy. The total number of intermediate appellate seats is 80, with membership ranging from three to 13 justices per court, as set by statute.
All cases are heard by a three-justice panel unless a hearing en banc is ordered except where a particular court has only three justices assigned to it, in which instance all cases are automatically heard en banc ; an example is the 12th Court of Appeals. The en banc process is used to maintain consistency in the court's jurisprudence, to overrule existing precedent that is binding on individual panels, and to set new precedent on an unsettled question of substantive law or procedure.
The Texas Legislature determines which counties are included within a particular court of appeals' district, and has shifted counties between courts to balance the docket. The Texas Supreme Court seeks to even out imbalances in appellate caseloads on an ongoing basis with docket-equalization orders that provide for transfers of batches of cases from the busiest appeals courts to others with spare capacity.
In an oddity, two appeals courts, the First and the Fourteenth, both have their seat at the re-purposed historic Harris County Courthouse in Houston and exercise concurrent jurisdiction over the same ten counties, the largest of which is Harris County.
Parties who want to appeal a judgment or other order from a trial court in these counties are required to state in their notice of appeal that they wish to appeal to either the first or the fourteenth court of appeals, and then have to wait for the result of random assignment to one or the other. See TEX. This is a standard form letter that is sent even though nobody knows which court they going to end up in when they filed the notice of appeal. The notice must be filed in the trial court, but the payment has to be made in the court of appeals. An even more bizarre situation occurs in East and North Texas, where the 6th Court has four counties — Gregg, Rusk, Upshur, and Wood — which overlap with the 12th Court, and also has Hunt County overlapping with the 5th Court.
The Texas district courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction. The district court has exclusive jurisdiction over felony cases, cases involving title to land, and election contest cases. Family law jurisdiction varies depending on the existence of a county court-at-law; in some counties, the district courts share jurisdiction over divorces, child custody and support matters, adoptions and child welfare cases with county courts at law. Also, probate jurisdiction varies depending on the existence of a statutory probate court in the county.
In some larger counties, such as Harris County, the district courts are specialized, some hearing family matters, others hearing criminal cases, and a third set hearing non-family civil cases. In more rural areas, as many as five counties share a district court; urban counties, on the other hand, have multiple district courts, which in some cases specialize in civil, criminal, family law or juvenile matters.
One of the most unusual features of Texas trial courts, including district courts, is the tradition of having only one judge per trial court. As a result, instead of adding more judges to existing courts in response to population growth, the Texas Legislature adds more courts. Each district court is uniquely numbered on a statewide basis according to its sequence of creation by the Legislature in other words, the numbers do not reflect the courts' geography. The same is not true of county-level courts, which are numbered sequentially in individual counties. The first Texas state constitution of tried to ameliorate the inflexibility of a single-judge trial court model by also authorizing judges to "exchange benches or hold court for each other when they deem it expedient.
In another unique twist, the Constitution grants the Legislature the authority to determine which court handles probate matters. These specialized courts handle matters of probate, guardianship, trust, and mental health. In some counties, the statutory probate courts also hear condemnation cases. There are no jurisdictional monetary limits on the types of lawsuits that a statutory probate court may hear. As such, their jurisdiction at times overlaps that of the district court. Not to be confused with County Courts at Law, which are created by statute, there is a County Court for each of the counties in Texas.
The Texas Constitution states that "[t]here shall be established in each county in this State a County Court The county court has exclusive jurisdiction over "Class A" and "Class B" misdemeanors these offenses can involve jail time , concurrent jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in controversy is moderately sized, and appellate jurisdiction over JP and municipal court cases for municipal court cases, this may involve a trial de novo if the lower court is not a "court of record". County court judges are not required to be licensed attorneys.
Due to this, defendants in counties which only have the traditional constitutional county court may ask to have their cases transferred to that county's district court for trial if the district judge consents .
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However, defendants in counties with the county court at law structure do not have this option, as the county court at law judges are required to have law degrees. Section 15 states that the County Court shall be a "court of record". Section 16 states that the County Court "has jurisdiction as provided by law"; Section 17 states that the County Court shall hold terms as provided by law and that County Court juries shall consist of six persons, but in civil cases a jury shall not be empaneled unless one of the parties demands it and pays a jury fee or files an affidavit stating that it is unable to do so.
Since the county judge is also responsible for presiding over the Commissioners Court the main executive and legislative body of the county , in 94 counties the Texas Legislature has established county courts at law to relieve the county judge of judicial duties. The first multi-county statutory county court composed of Fisher, Mitchell, and Nolan counties was created in 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.
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Unlike the county judge, judges of the county courts of law are required to be attorneys. The county courts at law may hear both civil and criminal matters, or hear them separately, depending on how the Legislature has structured them Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Harris, and Tarrant counties have "county criminal courts" or "county criminal courts at law" that hear only criminal cases.
Statutory County Courts at Law, not to be confused with Constitutional County Courts, generally have broader jurisdiction than constitutional county courts. Under the authority granted it by Section 1 of Article V, the Legislature has allowed for the creation of municipal courts in each incorporated city in Texas , by voter approval creating such court. Chapters 29 and 30 of the Texas Government Code outline the duties of these Courts and their officers.
Municipal courts in Texas come into contact with more defendants than all other Texas courts combined. The subject matter of municipal courts relates to crimes relating to public safety and quality of life issues.
In recent years, municipal courts and justice court in Texas have become the primary venue for acts of misconduct committed by children. Within the city limits, these courts have shared jurisdiction with the JP courts on Class C criminal misdemeanor cases, and have exclusive jurisdiction on cases involving city ordinances. Municipal courts have limited civil jurisdiction over public matters relating to public safety e.
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The matter of civil jurisdiction has been further confused by the advent of civil penalties for conduct that can be prosecuted as a Class C misdemeanor e. As a general rule, the municipal courts are not "courts of record" i.
This proved to be a 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 Austin, El Paso, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio—have chosen to convert their municipal courts to courts of record this also requires voter approval to close this loophole. In the process of preparing the material for publication some errors in the Quarterly articles were discovered and corrected. For the most part these were of a minor nature involving the spelling or misspelling of names.
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In the abstracts the names are spelled as we found them in the minutes. In the index, however, we have chosen one spelling in an attempt to put all the entries for one individual together. Every spelling found in the minutes is cross referenced in the index. In these abstracts are to be found the names of the founders of Dallas—as jurors, defendants and plaintiffs—involved in the usual disputes of life.
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As we were abstracting the minutes, we realized that in addition to information on early citizens there was a great deal of information on the early history of Dallas. For this reason, the publications committee decided to publish the minutes as a single book. This allowed us to gather the entries specifically relating to civic affairs of Dallas into one list, which appears as Appendix IV. Many officials were mentioned and they are listed in Appendix I.