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Texas Politics - The Justice System
Texas court caseloads by court and case type Texas court caseloads by court and case type
Organization of Texas courts Organization of Texas courts
3.    Organization and Structure of the Texas Court System

The structure and complexity of the court system in Texas (just as in the rest of the United States) reflects the structure and complexity of society. Modern Texas society has become so complex that the court system in the state has naturally developed into an extensive and sometimes unwieldy structure.

Of course, this complexity also reflects the accumulation of more than a century of politically influenced changes to the original constitutional design of the law and the court system. The Texas Constitution established the original court system, but also empowered the state Legislature to "create such other courts as may be necessary."

Like so much of the rest of the Texas system of governance, the original constitutional design of the state's court system was complex, fragmented and decentralized. It continues that way today, only more so because of the accumulation of statutory (legislatively created) courts.

Two key areas of complexity are the lower courts where civil and criminal cases are heard, and the very highest level, where appeals are heard. The lower level of the court system, comprising all trial courts, is characterized by overlapping jurisdictions of both constitutional and statutory origin, while the top of the judicial hierarchy is split into two supreme courts (the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court for civil cases). The Texas Politics interactive feature Casing Texas Courts compares the caseloads handled by different courts in the Texas system.

In between are the state's appellate courts, which hear both criminal and civil appeals from the lower trial courts.

Texas Politics:
© 2009, Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services
University of Texas at Austin
3rd Edition - Revision 116
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