Texas Courts of Appeals


Texas Courts of Appeals

The Texas Courts of Appeals are part of the Texas judicial system. In Texas, all cases appealed from the district level, both criminal and civil, may be heard by one of the fourteen Texas Courts of Appeals. The exception is for cases where the death penalty is a factor; these cases go directly to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court in Texas for criminal cases. The highest court in Texas for civil cases is the Texas Supreme Court. The specific number of Justices that can sit in each court is regulated by statute. The total number of appellate justices in Texas is currently 80, and can range from three to thirteen for each court. Cases in appellate courts are usually heard by a panel of three judges (even if there are more available). The exception to this is when a case is heard "en banc", when all of the justices hear the case.

Like the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, Justices of the Texas Courts of Appeals are elected in partisan elections to six-year terms.

History

Courts of civil appeals in Texas were established in 1891 by constitutional amendment to help handle the increasing load of the court system. They had jurisdiction to hear appeals and mandamus of any civil case from their region, with the regions decided by the legislature. The amendment provided that three-judge courts of appeals were to be created by legislature, and in 1892, the legislature created 3 courts of appeals: The First Court of Civil Appeals in Galveston, the Second Court of Civil Appeals in Fort Worth, and the Third Court of Civil Appeals in Austin. In 1893, the legislature created the Fourth Court of Civil Appeals in San Antonio out of territory taken from the first and third courts, and the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas. In 1907, the legislature created the Sixth Court of Civil Appeals in Texarkana. Then in 1911, the Seventh Court of Civil Appeals in Amarillo and the Eighth Court of Civil Appeals in El Paso were created. Soon after that, the Ninth Court of Civil Appeals was created in Beaumont in 1915, the Tenth was created in Waco in 1923, and the Eleventh was created in Eastland in 1925. [ [http://www.5thcoa.courts.state.tx.us/AboutCourt.htm About the Court ] ]

In 1957, after Hurricane Audrey severely damaged the Galveston County Courthouse and the legislature moved the First Court of Appeals to Houston and required Harris County to provide facilities. [ [http://www.1stcoa.courts.state.tx.us/ Welcome to the official site of the First Court of Appeals of Texas! ] ]

It wasn't until the 1970s that any more courts were created with the Twelfth Court of Civil Appeals in Tyler, the Thirteenth in Corpus Christi, and the Fourteenth in Houston (created with concurrent jurisdiction with the First Court of Civil Appeals) [ [http://www.5thcoa.courts.state.tx.us/AboutCourt.htm About the Court ] ]

In 1977, the legislature increased the number of judges of various courts and authorized courts of appeals to sit in "panels" of not fewer than three judges. [ [http://www.1stcoa.courts.state.tx.us/ Welcome to the official site of the First Court of Appeals of Texas! ] ]

On September 1, 1981, all Courts of Civil Appeals were given criminal jurisdiction, and in 1985 a constitutional amendment was passed so that all courts were known as "Courts of Appeals" instead of "Courts of Civil Appeals." [ [http://www.1stcoa.courts.state.tx.us/ Welcome to the official site of the First Court of Appeals of Texas! ] ] Until 1981, all criminal appeals cases went directly to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and all cases involving capital punishment still do. [ [http://tarlton.law.utexas.edu/justices/timeline.html Justices of Texas 1836-1986 - Timeline of the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals ] ] [Texas Court of Criminal Appeals]

Jurisdictions

There are fourteen districts of the Texas Courts of Appeals (in order): [Tex. Govt. Code Ann. §22.201 (Vernon 2005)]
# Houston (formerly Galveston), covering Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington counties
# Fort Worth, covering Archer, Clay, Cooke, Denton, Hood, Jack, Montague, Parker, Tarrant, Wichita, Wise, and Young counties
# Austin, covering Bastrop, Bell, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Coke, Comal, Concho, Fayette, Hays, Irion, Lampasas, Lee, Llano, McCulloch, Milam, Mills, Runnels, San Saba, Schleicher, Sterling, Tom Green, Travis, and Williamson counties
# San Antonio, covering Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Brooks, Dimmit, Duval, Edwards, Frio, Gillespie, Guadalupe, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, Kimble, Kinney, La Salle, Mason, Maverick, McMullen, Medina, Menard, Real, Starr, Sutton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Webb, Wilson, Zapata, and Zavala counties
# Dallas, covering Collin, Dallas, Grayson, Hunt, Kaufman, and Rockwall counties
# Texarkana, covering Bowie, Camp, Cass, Delta, Fannin, Franklin, Gregg, Harrison, Hopkins, Hunt, Lamar, Marion, Morris, Panola, Red River, Rusk, Titus, Upshur, and Wood counties
# Amarillo, covering Armstrong, Bailey, Briscoe, Carson, Castro, Childress, Cochran, Collingsworth, Cottle, Crosby, Dallam, Deaf Smith, Dickens, Donley, Floyd, Foard, Garza, Gray, Hale, Hall, Hansford, Hardeman, Hartley, Hemphill, Hockley, Hutchinson, Kent, King, Lamb, Lipscomb, Lubbock, Lynn, Moore, Motley, Ochiltree, Oldham, Parmer, Potter, Randall, Roberts, Sherman, Swisher, Terry, Wheeler, Wilbarger, and Yoakum counties.
# El Paso, covering Andrews, Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, El Paso, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reagan, Reeves, Terrell, Upton, Ward, and Winkler counties
# Beaumont, covering Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery, Newton, Orange, Polk, San Jacinto, and Tyler counties
# Waco, covering Bosque, Brazos, Burleson, Coryell, Ellis, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hill, Johnson, Leon, Limestone, Madison, McLennan, Navarro, Robertson, Somervell, and Walker counties
# Eastland, covering Baylor, Borden, Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Comanche, Dawson, Eastland, Ector, Erath, Fisher, Gaines, Glasscock, Haskell, Howard, Jones, Knox, Martin, Midland, Mitchell, Nolan, Palo Pinto, Scurry, Shackelford, Stephens, Stonewall, Taylor, and Throckmorton counties
# Tyler, covering Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Gregg, Henderson, Houston, Nacogdoches, Rains, Rusk, Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Smith, Trinity, Upshur, Van Zandt, and Wood counties
# Corpus Christi, covering Aransas, Bee, Calhoun, Cameron, De Witt, Goliad, Gonzales, Hidalgo, Jackson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Lavaca, Live Oak, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria, Wharton, and Willacy counties
# Houston, covering Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Waller, and Washington counties

Houston has two courts whose jurisdictions cover the same counties. The cases are assigned on a random selection basis, but may be moved in order to equalize the docket. Some counties are split between two courts.

Until 1981, each Court of Appeals was referred to as a Civil Court of Appeals and handled only civil matters. All criminal matters skipped this level.

References


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