Texas Court Records
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How Does the Supreme Court of Texas Work?
In the state of Texas, the Supreme Court is the highest appellate court for civil matters. The Court has final appellate jurisdiction over all civil and juvenile cases in the state. Also, the Texas Supreme Court has other judicial and administrative functions, which include:
- Issuing writs of habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus, procedendo, and other writs that may be necessary to enforce its jurisdiction
- Making rules of practice and procedure that govern trials and appeals in civil and juvenile cases heard in the state of Texas
- Ensuring the efficient operation of the state’s judicial system
- Making and enforcing the rules of administration for the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Office of Court Administration, the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, and all other state agencies that are in the judicial branch of the Texas government
The Supreme Court of Texas also has the jurisdiction to answer state law questions that are certified from a federal appellate court. This usually happens when the certifying court has been presented with Texas state law’s determinative questions with no controlling precedent set by the Supreme Court. Note that the Supreme Court is not required to answer all questions that are certified to it.
The Supreme Court of Texas consists of a chief justice and eight other justices. Justices are elected in staggered statewide partisan elections every two years. During each election, three potential justices vie for the available positions. Elected justices serve six-year terms. Parties that wish to be elected as a justice of the Supreme Court in Texas must be:
- Citizens of the state and at least 35 years old;
- Licensed to practice law in Texas;
- A legal practitioner with ten-year experience as a lawyer or as a lawyer and a judge in a court of record
When there is a vacancy in the court before an election, the position is filled by an individual appointed by the state governor. However, this appointment is subject to confirmation by the state’s Senate. When appointed and confirmed, this individual serves out the term until the next election.
The Supreme Court of Texas exercises discretionary jurisdiction over the cases brought before it and can choose to accept or deny petitions to review the decisions rendered by a Texas Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court typically considers the following factors when deciding if it should grant or deny an appeal request:
- If a dissenting opinion on an important point of law was filed by one of the Court of Appeals’ justices
- If there are conflicts with a decision by another Court of Appeals on an important point of law
- Whether the construction or validity of a statute is involved in the case
- Whether constitutional issues are involved in the case
- Whether the court made a mistake of law that is of very high statewide importance
- Whether the decision issued by the Court of Appeals is on an important question of law that should be but has not been decided by the Supreme Court of Texas
When the Supreme Court of Texas grants an appeal petition, the court reviews the judgment rendered by the state’s Court of Appeals to determine whether an error may have occurred. The Supreme Court of Texas is not a trial court, and these reviews are based solely on the records of the Court of Appeals. These records typically include written transcripts of the trial proceedings, pleadings, motions, briefs and decisions, orders and judgments filed in the trial court, and other documents and materials that may have been filed in both the trial courts and the Court of Appeals. In some cases, the court may also allow the appealing parties to present an oral argument to support the submitted documents.
Note that, even though appeals from trial courts in the Texas court system typically go to the Court of Appeals, in some cases, appeals may move directly to the Supreme Court of Texas. These types of appeals are rare and can only happen in cases where injunctive relief based on the constitutionality of a state statute is granted or denied by a trial court.
Parties that wish to file an appeal in the Supreme Court must do within 45 days of a Court of Appeals’ judgment or denial of a motion to rehear the case. After the case has been reviewed and a decision made by the Supreme Court, unsatisfied parties may petition for a rehearing. This should be done within 15 days, beginning from the date the court’s final decision was issued. There is no fixed time limit for issuing a decision on a case by the Supreme Court of Texas. However, in cases that involve parent-child relationships, final dispositions are typically issued on an average of 180 days after the appeal is filed.
The Supreme Court of Texas provides public members with online access to case records and documents through a web page maintained by the Texas court system. In addition to this, orders and opinions and electronic briefs issued by the court, and causes set for an oral argument, can be viewed online.
Copies of the court’s records can also be obtained by contacting the Clerk of the Court between 8:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. via (512) 463–1312 or by mail-in requests to:
Supreme Court of Texas
P. O. Box 12248
Austin, TX 78711
The Clerk can also be contacted in person at Room 104 of the Supreme Court building located at: