This chapter discusses the Texas judicial system. The different types of courts are discussed, in addition to the issues and problems that are inherent within the system, such as issues of representation, among others.
The framers of the U.S. Constitution created a governing structure called federalism. This structure divides political authority among different governments, and judicial authority is no exception. As a result, Texas has chosen to create a state court structure different from the federal court structure. An obvious example is that the Texas court system has two supreme courts. The Supreme Court of Texas is the highest court authority involving civil cases. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the court of last resort involving criminal cases. In addition, the state’s principal trial courts are called district courts and total 469. Many Texans are more familiar with justice of the peace courts and municipal courts, which have jurisdiction to deal with a variety of minor misdemeanors, civil actions, traffic offenses, and small claims cases.
For the most part, judges in the state of Texas are elected in partisan elections. Municipal court judges are typically appointed. With the combination of a large population of residents and a tradition of limiting the powers of all institutions of government, the state of Texas has developed a complex statewide court system to handle the civil and criminal cases that require resolution. Minorities and women are quite underrepresented in the state’s courts. Since most judges are elected in partisan elections, campaigns can be long, and the need to raise campaign funds has led to controversy concerning the impact of businesses on judicial selection.