Texas Court Records
The state of Texas hosts a unique and complex court structure unlike most states in the country. It includes the Supreme Court, Court of Criminal Appeals, Court of Appeals, District Courts, County Courts, County Courts at Law, Probate Courts, Justice of the Peace, and lastly Municipal Courts. Each has an important role to fill in the judicial system and will produce numerous legal documents every year that become the state’s court records.
History of Texas Court Records
On December 29, 1845 Texas achieved statehood and was admitted into the United States; however, in prior years, the Republic of Texas drafted a constitution which included provisions for a Supreme Court with a Chief Justice and associate justices. From 1846-1850 the court was held in session at the capital city of Austin. Later it was decided that sessions should be held in Galveston and Tyler as well. This continued until 1945 when the constitution amended that all Supreme Court proceedings take place in the state capital.
Texas Court Records Availability
Texas lags behind many states in the accessibility of online court records. Many municipalities, cities, and courts have records available, but unfortunately they are not very succinct or unified throughout the state or major courts. Dallas County boasts an online tool to search for court records by name or record number.
Main Court Information
Texas is similar to most states in that the Supreme Court is the court of last resort for civil cases. It differs because all appellate criminal cases are finalized in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The only other state to have two courts of last resort is Oklahoma. Texas also features fourteen Courts of Appeals, which represent specific districts to serve as intermediate appellate courts of civil and criminal cases appealed from lower courts of the state.
Texas hosts many trial courts as well; District Courts have the highest authority of these lower courts and provide one justice for each of the 448 District Courts of the state. They hold jurisdiction in felony proceedings, divorce, election contests, land title disputes, and civil disputes where the amount is over $200. County Courts often have overlapping jurisdiction with the aforementioned courts and handle similar types of cases.
Municipal courts are numerous in the state of Texas, with 915 hearing cases as of September, 2010. The caseload of Municipal courts is dependent to the city, but may consist of civil, minor offenses, and traffic violations. Probate Courts serve municipalities of Texas and have jurisdiction over probate matters, mental health cases, and matters of guardianship. The courts of The Justice of the Peace oversee lower civil and criminal cases, but may convict crimes with fines as punishment only.
The caseload of the Supreme Court in 2014 resulted in 1,211 filings and 1,217 dispositions for the state of Texas. The Court of Criminal Appeals has a much heavier caseload, which includes 11,101 filings and 11,549 dispositions for the same year.