2 The Development of the Texas Judiciary The first courts in Texas were established in the Austin colony.Stephen F. Austin was appointed a provisional justice of the peace for the province of Texas in 1822.As an independent republic, Texas created a judiciary that reflected English tradition primarily.The basic judicial structure came from the 1836 constitution.Every constitution retained popular election of judges.Over time, constitutional amendments and legislative acts have made the system one of the most complicated and confusing in the country.
3 The Structure of the Texas Judiciary Local Trial CourtsHave limited jurisdictionMunicipal courtsExercise original jurisdiction over traffic misdemeanorsMaximum penalty in these cases—a fine or sanction that does not include confinement to jail or imprisonmentClass C misdemeanors such as public intoxication and simple assault2005: over 8 million new cases filed in Texas municipal courts83 percent involved traffic violations
4 The Structure of the Texas Judiciary Justice of the peace courtsLocal county court for minor crimes and civil suitsExercise exclusive original jurisdiction in civil cases involving less than $200Concurrent original jurisdiction with district and county courts in civil cases involving less than $5,000Function as small claims courtsThe people’s courts
6 The Structure of the Texas Judiciary County CourtsConstitutional county courtsConstitutionally mandated court for criminal and civil mattersHave concurrent original jurisdiction with civil matters, justice of the peace courts and with district courtsHave jurisdiction over probate cases (wills and estates) unless they are contestedAlso exercise appellate jurisdiction
7 The Structure of the Texas Judiciary Trial de novoNew trial, necessary for an appeal from a court that is not a court of recordCounty court at lawStatutory county court to relieve county judge of judicial dutiesCounty courts handle many cases904,000 in 200770 percent were criminal cases
8 The Structure of the Texas Judiciary District CourtsCourt of general jurisdiction for serious crimes and high-dollar civil casesIntermediate Courts of AppealIntermediate appellate court for criminal and civil appeals14 courts of appeal with nearly 80 judges
9 The Structure of the Texas Judiciary The Supreme CourtsTexas Supreme CourtCourt of last resort in civil and juvenile casesTexas Court of Criminal AppealsCourt of last resort in criminal casesPetition for reviewRequest for Texas Supreme Court review, which is granted if four justices agreeApplications for discretionary reviewRequest for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals review, which is granted if four judges agree
10 Judicial Qualifications and Personal Characteristics More than 3,200 judges in TexasExcept for municipal judges all are selected in partisan electionsTexas Constitution establishes the qualifications for most judges.These vary by judicial office.Variation in terms of education and trainingPersonal characteristics are similar.
12 Judicial Selection Partisan elections One of only 8 states that elect all or most of their judges this wayTwo exceptionsMunicipal judgesFilling vacancies in other judicial officesQuestions of accountability and the ability to remain fair and impartial when campaign contributions are at stake
13 Criticisms of the Texas Judicial Branch Reforming the Court StructureOverlapping jurisdictionAllows an attorney to “shop” for justiceVarious suggestions for reform including merger of the two supreme courtsReforming Judicial SelectionRecommendations have been made that Texas adopt a merit system for selecting judgesOther reforms suggested but no movement on compromise given the varied interests in judicial selection
15 Criticisms of the Texas Judicial Branch Reforming Campaign FinanceHigh cost of judicial campaignsJudicial Campaign Fairness Act in 1995Act limits contributions to judicial candidates, depending on the officeSeveral loopholes in the actAmassing large war chestsConflict of interest (case involves contributor – no requirement to recuse)
16 Criticisms of the Texas Judicial Branch Increasing Minority Representation on the BenchWhy so few minorities on the bench in Texas?High cost of judicial campaignsRacially polarized voting in statewide and countywide electionsSmall numbers of Hispanics and African Americans who are licensed attorneys
17 The Judicial Process in Texas The Criminal Justice ProcessArrest and SearchesBookingMagistrate AppearanceGrand Jury IndictmentArraignmentPretrial MotionsJury SelectionVoir direTrialAppeals
20 The Civil Justice Process Pretrial ProceduresInjured party (plaintiff) files petition with the clerk of the court that will hear the caseComplaints and indicates remedy soughtWritten reply by defendantMay settle out of courtEither party may request a jury trial.Otherwise the judge conducts a bench trial, determining the facts and applying the applicable law.
21 The Civil Justice Process TrialPresentation of evidence and witnesses to prove the bases of complaintChallenge of defendant’s attorney of the evidence—cross-examination of witnessesPresentation of defendant’s evidence, which may be challengedAppeals
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