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Researching Texas Law: Cases

Introduction

What is Texas' court structure?

State Courts

Texas' court system has three levels: trial, appellate, and supreme.

Trial: The trial level, or local, courts are the most numerous, consisting of over 450 state district courts, over 500 county courts, over 800 Justice of the Peace courts, and over 900 municipal courts. These courts handle the vast majority of legal matters in Texas. For more information about Texas trial courts, see here.

Appellate: Most cases start out at the trial level, and most end there as well. However, if a party is unhappy with the outcome of their case, they can appeal it to one of the 14 state appellate courts. The appellate court will review the trial court's work and decide whether to consider the appeal. If a party is unhappy with the outcome of the appellate case, they can appeal it further up to the one of the courts of last resort.

Supreme: Unlike most states, Texas has two courts of last resort, also called supreme courts. Like the appellate courts, these courts consider cases that are appealed from the lower courts. They also hear cases appealed from the federal Fifth Circuit courts. The Texas Supreme Court hears civil appeals, while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals hears criminal cases, including death penalty appeals.

Federal Courts

Trial: There are four federal district courts in Texas. They consist of the United States District Courts for the Northern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Texas, the Southern District of Texas, and the Western District of Texas.

Appellate: Texas is part of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears all appeals from these federal district courts.

Supreme: Appeals from decisions rendered by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals go to the U.S. Supreme Court or, in some circumstances, the Texas Supreme Court or Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Texas Court Structure Chart