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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The soft-spoken and — until now — media-shy presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals sat down with The Texas Tribune last week to talk about capital punishment in Texas, what she was doing on the afternoon she closed her office at 5 p.m. to a last-minute death row appeal, the flaws in the way the state sanctions judges, what it's like to be known as Sharon “Killer” Keller and the "ridiculous" idea that she doesn't care about defendants or indigent defense.

An Interview With Judge Sharon Keller

The soft-spoken and — until now — media-shy presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals sat down with The Texas Tribune last week to talk about capital punishment in Texas, what she was doing on the afternoon she closed her office at 5 p.m. to a last-minute death row appeal, the flaws in the way the state sanctions judges, what it's like to be known as Sharon “Killer” Keller and the "ridiculous" idea that she doesn't care about defendants or indigent defense.

John Bradley and District Judge Charlie Baird.
John Bradley and District Judge Charlie Baird.

Can a Court of Inquiry Take On the Willingham Case?

Judge Charlie Baird will decide today whether to recuse himself from an investigation into the innocence of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Corsicana man executed in 2004 for the arson deaths of his three young daughters. But with or without Baird, a bigger question is in play: Is a court of inquiry the appropriate venue to consider Willingham’s guilt or innocence?

A joint meeting between the House Elections and Judiciary committees on Aug. 26, 2010
A joint meeting between the House Elections and Judiciary committees on Aug. 26, 2010

Will SCOTUS Opinions Affect TX Judicial Elections?

Do two recent U.S. Supreme Court opinions have the far-reaching effects on Texas judicial elections that some in our legal community fear? Or do the state's current campaign finance laws adequately address the issues presented by both cases?

SLAPP:  "strategic lawsuit against public participation."
SLAPP: "strategic lawsuit against public participation."

Lawmakers Worry Meritless Lawsuits Threaten Free Speech

Plaintiffs in so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs, use the court system to bury opponents in a crush of legal fees and paperwork of Bleak House proportions. They're not concerned about winning damages. They usually don’t expect to be successful, and the targets often don’t have the money to adequately defend themselves. Yet in otherwise tort-reform-happy Texas, there is no prohibition on filing this particular form of meritless suit — yet.

All Four U.S. Attorneys Spots Open in Texas

Texas has more unfilled U.S. attorney positions than any other state — and that isn’t going to change soon. Currently, none of the four Texas districts have "presidentially confirmed" federal prosecutors, who are responsible for enforcing federal laws. Last week, John B. Stevens, a state district judge in Beaumont who was Barack Obama's only nominee in Texas, withdrew his name from consideration, citing the protracted confirmation process. And that means we risk being left out of the administration’s inner circle on criminal and civil justice issues.