How is the Texas Court System Organized

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Understanding the Texas court system can be a bit confusing since there are many types of courts, each within a different level of the system. The courts are categorized by the specific type of case or cases they decide, by their level within the system, and by jurisdiction. With so many categorizations it’s no wonder most Texans don’t know how the court system works.

The overview below should give you a better understanding of the different courts in Texas and the cases they decide.

Hierarchical Structure

Like the federal court system, the Texas court system is hierarchical in nature. This basically means that higher courts (appellate courts and Supreme Court) review the decisions of lower courts (trial courts). The basic structure is as follows:

  • Level 1: Trial courts, where all cases begin.
  • Level 2: Appellate courts, which review trial court decisions and either uphold or reverse the decision.
  • Level 3: Courts of last resort--the Texas Supreme Court (civil matters) and Court of Criminal Appeals (criminal matters). These courts review decisions of the appellate courts and either uphold or reverse the decision.

Local Courts

Justice Courts: They handle Class C criminal misdemeanors, small claims, and magistrate functions. These courts are also called “Justice of the Peace” courts. There are 821 justice courts.

Municipal Courts: They handle fine-only criminal misdemeanors, municipal criminal cases, and magistrate functions. There are 917 municipal courts.

County Courts

Constitutional County Courts: They handle a variety of cases, including misdemeanors, juvenile matters, civil actions between $200 and $10,000, and some probate. There are 254 constitutional county courts (one court per county).

County Courts at Law: They handle a variety of cases, including civil cases up to $100,000 and appellate actions from municipal and justice courts.

* There are 494 county-level courts. This number includes all constitutional county courts, county courts at law, and statutory probate courts.

State Courts

District Courts: Generally speaking, they handle both civil and criminal matters. However, certain district courts may specialize in civil, criminal, juvenile, or family law cases. There are 444 district courts. Map of district courts

Courts of Appeal: They handle the civil and criminal appeals from the county and district courts. There are 14 courts of appeal. Map of courts of appeal

Courts of Last Resort

Texas Supreme Court: Handles only civil cases. There are 9 Supreme Court Justices.

Court of Criminal Appeals: Handles only criminal cases. There are 9 Court of Criminal Appeals judges.

*Texas is one of only two states that have two courts of last resort. All other states have only one court of last resort, the state supreme court.

Disclaimer

The information in this article is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this or associated pages, comments, answers, or other communications should be taken as legal advice. The information provided is not intended to create, and viewing of this information does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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© 2012 Bahin Ameri

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