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The Texas Judiciary

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  1. The Texas Judiciary Chapter 25 O’Connor and Sabato American Government: Continuity and Change

  2. The Texas Judiciary • In this chapter we will cover… 1. Roots of the Texas Judiciary 2. The Structure of the Texas Judiciary 3. Judges and Judicial Selection 4. Criticism of the Texas Judicial Branch 5. The Judicial Process in Texas

  3. Roots of the Texas Judiciary • First courts established in Austin in 1822, in the province of Texas • Judiciary was a point of contention between Anglo settlers and Mexican government • An independent Texas judiciary reflected English tradition • 1876 Constitution created Supreme Court and Court of Appeals • Subsequent constitutional amendments have created a judiciary in Texas among the most complicated and confusing in the United States

  4. Structure of the Texas Judiciary • Texas judiciary has five levels of courts 1. Local trial courts 2. County Courts 3. District Courts 4. Intermediate Courts of Appeal 5 Texas Supreme Courts

  5. Structure of the Texas Judiciary • The Texas Supreme Courts State’s highest appellate court and both are courts of last resort Texas Supreme Court – one chief justice and eight associate justices Texas Court of Criminal Appeals – one presiding judge and eight judges Each court exercises discretion in review cases The Texas Supreme Court also performs administrative duties. For example it is responsible for rules governing trials.

  6. Judges & Judicial Selection • Partisan elections • Considerable variety in terms of education and training (e.g., county judges only have to be “well informed in the law of the state”) • Most judges are male, average age just under fifty, overwhelmingly Anglo

  7. Judges & Judicial Selection • Judicial Selection -partisan elections -gubernatorial appointment for vacancies for several of the higher courts • Issues: who are judges accountable to and the role of campaign finances • In polls most Texans (83%) believe campaign finances play a part in judges’ decisions

  8. Criticism of the Texas Judicial Branch • Court structure Reform efforts include simplification of levels and mixed and confusing jurisdictional problems and merger of the two supreme courts • Selection process: Reforms include merit system adoption or system of appointment and retention election

  9. Criticism of the Texas Judicial Branch • Reforming campaign financing • Reforming Minority Representation on the Bench Hispanics and African Americans have never been represented on the bench in proportion to their population numbers Issues include: at-large electoral base and minority voter strength dilution

  10. The Judicial Process in Texas • Criminal Justice Process 1. Arrest and searches 2. Booking 3. Magistrates appearance 4. Grand Jury Indictment 5. Arraignment 6. Pretrial Motions 7. Jury Selection 8. Trial 9. Appeals

  11. Criticism of the Texas Judicial Branch • Civil Justice Process 1. Pretrial procedures 2. Trial 3. Appeals • Issues and items: Ruiz v. Estelle, jury selection, representation

  12. United States and Texas Executions