Like most states, the judicial system in Texas is an intricate structure. If you find yourself involved in a civil or criminal case, it’s to your advantage to become familiar with how this system operates. Your attorney can provide you with valuable information about the structure of the Texas Court System so you have a better idea of how it’s organized and what to expect from the judiciary process. In short, here’s a brief outline of this structure.
Structure of the Court System in Texas
Supreme Courts: The Texas court system is unique from other states in that it contains two supreme courts, instead of one. The Supreme Court of Texas is responsible for civil cases while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals deals with cases involving criminal law. Each of these supreme courts has nine justices which are elected by the people to serve six year terms.
Both the Supreme Court of Texas and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals have appellate jurisdiction, meaning they can review decisions made by lower courts and change the outcome of those decisions if they feel the circumstances warrant it.
14 Courts of Appeal: Under the supreme court is what’s known as the 14 Courts of Appeal. These courts also have the right of appellate jurisdiction.
District Courts: District courts handle the majority of civil and criminal trials in Texas. Some of these courts specialize in specific areas such as family law or cases dealing with juveniles.
Other: Texas also maintains county courts, municipal courts, statutory probate courts and justice of the peace courts in its court system.
Within the Texas court system, cases can be tried under civil law or criminal law.
Civil law cases often deal with disputes between individuals over such matters as relationships, responsibilities, obligations, etc. These matters may involve the breach of contracts, personal injury due to accidents or damage to or loss of property. In civil cases, the individual bringing the case to court (plaintiff) must have evidence that he has been wronged and is deserving of compensation for damages.
Criminal law cases involve the breaking of criminal statutes or laws. These cases are brought to court by the state when individuals are accused of a crime. In criminal cases, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused has committed a crime.
Many court cases are settled before reaching trial by either plea bargaining in the case of criminal offenses or reaching a settlement in civil suits.
The Texas court system plays an important role in upholding the law in Texas by addressing such important issues as the death penalty, criminal sentencing for crimes that don’t mandate the death penalty (i.e. drugs, theft, fraud, etc.), tort reform, tobacco litigation, civil lawsuits and more.
When obtaining legal representation in Texas, make sure your attorney has a license from the Supreme Court of Texas and is a member of the Texas State Bar. Working with top attorneys in Texas will enable you to get the quality representation you need to launch a successful defense.