Tribpedia: Texas Judicial System

Tribpedia

The Texas judicial system features five layers of courts and a bifurcated appellate system that separates criminal and civil appeals at its highest level. Article 5 of the Texas Constitution governs its structure.

The lowest court is the Justice of the Peace Court, or JP court, which handles criminal misdemeanors "punishable by fine only" and civil matters where the "amount ...

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GOP Lawmakers Make Case for Upholding Gay Marriage Ban

GOP nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general Dan Patrick (l.) and Ken Paxton.
GOP nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general Dan Patrick (l.) and Ken Paxton.

UPDATED: Removing Texas' same-sex marriage ban could clear the way for bigamy, pedophilia and incest, according to a federal brief signed by 63 Texas Republican lawmakers including the GOP candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general. 

 

Hank Skinner was sentenced to death for the 1993 triple slaying of his girlfriend and her two sons.
Hank Skinner was sentenced to death for the 1993 triple slaying of his girlfriend and her two sons.

Ruling Goes Against Death Row Inmate Skinner

A district court judge ruled against death row inmate Hank Skinner on Tuesday in the wake of new DNA testing in his case, saying it was “reasonably probable” he would still have been convicted had the evidence been available at his trial.

From left to right: David Lyle, senior counsel for state advancement, American Constitution Society, and Bert Brandenburg, executive director, Justice at Stake.
From left to right: David Lyle, senior counsel for state advancement, American Constitution Society, and Bert Brandenburg, executive director, Justice at Stake.

Brandenburg and Lyle: The TT Interview

Two experts in campaign finance and its effects on how judges decide cases say the money has a measurable effect and that some changes in law can help. Bert Brandenburg and David Lyle talk about the effect of political money in judicial races, the perception that judges are for sale and how to insulate the courts from conflicts of interest.

 

A Pay Raise With a Little Something Extra

Lawmakers are talking seriously about a 21.5 percent pay raise for state district judges. That raise would also mean a 21.5 percent bump in the pensions of lawmakers. It's a vote that opens politicians to criticism for fluffing their own financial pillows while leaving other budget items without enough money.

Rick Perry and Jeffrey Boyd
Rick Perry and Jeffrey Boyd

In Judicial Picks, Perry Reaches Past Executive Branch

Gov. Rick Perry's control of the executive branch after 12 years in office is well established. But he's made hundreds of judicial appointments too, people who generally agree with his ideas about judicial philosophy and the law. It’s a bit of a crapshoot, because those judges are free, once appointed, from any accountability to the state’s chief executive.

Local Court Runoff Tests Judicial Campaign Fairness Act

A runoff for the state district court in Marshall, the Harrison County seat just east of Longview near the Louisiana border, has two Republicans slinging lawsuits and ethics complaints over provisions of the Judicial Campaign Fairness Act. And some worry the race could set a trend that leads to more money and corruption in judicial campaigns.

Making the Trip From the Bench to the Grass Roots

How do you get state judges to go to a weekday afternoon reception in rural West Texas? It depends on who else is there — and what it could mean for their re-election bids. Many judges must stand for election in Texas, and the same voters who want them on the ballot don’t pay much attention to them once they’re there. The support of a powerful few goes a very long way. 

Texas Gets a D+ in Public Integrity Study

Texas scored a 68 out of 100, coming in at 27th place in a national state integrity study. The state got high marks for auditing and for monitoring pension funds, but not as high for accountability of the governor and legislators.

Legal Aid Group Fights County for Unpaid Services

In rural Val Verde County, 39 defendants who are too poor to afford their own lawyers have waited years for resolution of their cases. The Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid says the county owes its lawyers hundreds of thousands of dollars for legal services. As a new legal battle between the group's lawyers and the county begins, justice remains elusive for their clients.

Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.
Michael Morton sits beside his mother, Patricia Morton, during an emotional press conference after a judge agreed to release him on personal bond after he spent nearly 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife.

Morton Lawyers: Former DAs' Claims "Wholly Deficient"

Michael Morton's legal team responded today to claims from the exonerated man's original prosecutors that they cannot be forced to testify as part of an inquiry into how Morton was wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife.

Texas Supreme Court justices listen to the State of the Judiciary speech on February 23, 2011.
Texas Supreme Court justices listen to the State of the Judiciary speech on February 23, 2011.

Day 28: Tort Reform Bill Gives High Court New Powers

Throughout August, the Tribune is featuring 31 ways Texans' lives will change come Sept. 1, the date most bills passed by the Legislature take effect. DAY 28: Under a new tort reform law, the Texas Supreme Court will make rules to expedite lawsuits with claims under $100,000 and to allow judges to dismiss meritless ones early on.

Texas Forensic Science Commission Chairman John Bradley listens to other board members during a scheduled meeting on September 17, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.
Texas Forensic Science Commission Chairman John Bradley listens to other board members during a scheduled meeting on September 17, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.

Despite Questions of Bias, John Bradley Will Stay on Innocence Appeal

Over the objections of the Innocence Project, a state judge has declined to remove firebrand Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley from continuing to investigate the case of Michael Morton, whose 1987 murder conviction has been called into question by new DNA evidence suggesting someone else killed his wife. 

State Rep. Brandon Creighton (r), R-Conroe, talks to State Rep. Dan Branch before laying out HB274 on May 9, 2011.
State Rep. Brandon Creighton (r), R-Conroe, talks to State Rep. Dan Branch before laying out HB274 on May 9, 2011.

Senate Approves Loser-Pays Bill

The Senate unanimously passed a major tort reform bill today that would allow courts to grant attorneys' fees to prevailing parties under certain circumstances.

State Rep. Craig Eiland (r), D-Galveston, speaks against HB274 the lawsuit reform bill as Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, listens on May 9, 2011.
State Rep. Craig Eiland (r), D-Galveston, speaks against HB274 the lawsuit reform bill as Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, listens on May 9, 2011.

Loser-Pays Bill Clears Texas House

Today, Texas got one step closer to becoming one of the few states with a rule that awards legal fees to prevailing parties in lawsuits. 

Texas State Representative Brandon Creighton, who chairs the House Select Committee on State Sovereignty, during a press conference on the Tenth Amendment.
Texas State Representative Brandon Creighton, who chairs the House Select Committee on State Sovereignty, during a press conference on the Tenth Amendment.

"Loser Pays" a Winner in the Texas Legislature?

A push to require the losing parties in litigation to pay their opponents’ legal fees could be the next tort reform battle in Texas. The loser-pays approach, advocates say, is the cure for courts choked with the costs of “junk” lawsuits. But opponents say it obstructs all litigation — without regard to merit — and keeps those with plausible legal claims from seeking justice.