Texas Supreme Court
|Texas Supreme Court|
|Method:||Partisan election of judges|
The Texas Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of Texas for civil matters. As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court hears appeals of decisions in civil cases from lower courts. Its decisions are not subject to review by any other court.
The Supreme Court was established in 1836 by the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. The Court consists of nine justices who meet in Austin, Texas in a building located on the state Capitol grounds.
JusticesThe current justices of the court are:
|Justice Don Willett||2005-2018||Gov. Rick Perry||Republican|
|Justice Paul Green||2005-2016||Elected||Republican|
|Chief justice Nathan Hecht||1989-2018||Gov. Rick Perry||Republican|
|Justice Phil Johnson||2005-2014||Gov. Rick Perry||Republican|
|Justice Eva Guzman||2009-2016||Gov. Rick Perry||Republican|
|Justice Jeff Brown||2013-2014||Gov. Rick Perry||Republican|
|Justice Debra Lehrmann||2010-2016||Gov. Rick Perry||Republican|
|Justice John Devine||2013-2018||Elected||Republican|
|Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd||2012-2014||Gov. Rick Perry||Republican|
The nine justices are elected to staggered six-year terms in state-wide partisan elections. The nine seats are referred to by place numbers 1 through 9. The place numbers have no special meaning as all justices are elected state-wide, except that the Chief Justice position is considered "Place 1."
If a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement, who then must be confirmed by the Texas Senate. The justice serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Five of the current nine justices were originally appointed by Governor Rick Perry.
The chief justice runs as such in the general election and is selected by the state's voters.
In order to serve on the court, the following requirements must be met:
- be a citizen of the United States;
- hold state residency;
- be licensed to practice law in Texas;
- be older than 35 and younger than 74; and
- have practiced law or been a judge for 10 years.
"Much of the Supreme Court’s time is spent determining which petitions for review will be granted, as it must consider all petitions for review that are filed. However, the Court exercises some control over its caseload in deciding which petitions will be granted. The Court usually takes only those cases that present the most significant Texas legal issues in need of clarification.
The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction to answer questions of state law certified from a federal appellate court; has original jurisdiction to issue writs and to conduct proceedings for the involuntary retirement or removal of judges; and reviews cases involving attorney discipline upon appeal from the Board of Disciplinary Appeals of the State Bar of Texas."
"The Supreme Court’s caseload can be broken down into three broad categories: determining whether to grant review of the final judgment of a court of appeals (i.e., to grant or not grant a petition for review); disposition of regular causes (i.e., granted petitions for review, accepted petitions for writs of mandamus or habeas corpus, certified questions, accepted parental notification appeals, and direct appeals); and disposition of numerous motions related to petitions and regular causes."
"Regular causes" involve cases in which four or more of the justices have decided in conference that a petition for review, petition for writ of mandamus or habeas corpus, or parental notiﬁ cation appeal should be reviewed. Regular causes also include direct appeals the court has agreed to review and questions of law certiﬁ ed to it by a federal appellate court that the court has agreed to answer. Most regular causes are set for oral argument in open court and are reported in written opinions. However, a petition may be granted and an unsigned opinion (per curiam) issued without oral argument if at least six members of the court vote accordingly."
The chart below displays the number of regular causes added, disposed, and pending on the Supreme Court's docket from 1991 to 2010.
(See also Texas judicial elections, 2014)
There were three seats on the Texas Supreme Court up for election in 2010 - Places 3, 5, and 9. Then incumbent Justice Harriet O'Neill announced that she would not seek re-election upon the expiration of her term in 2010, opening Place 3. Incumbent Justice Paul Green's seat on the bench (Place 5) was up for a vote. Justice Scott Brister's 2009 retirement created an opportunity for the Governor to appoint Eva Guzman to the court in October 2009, who had to defend her seat (Place 9) in the general election .
Republican Debra Lehrmann won election to the open seat, Place 3, defeating Jill Sharp (D) and William Bryan Strange (L).
Incumbent Paul Green (R) won re-election to Place 3, defeating Bill Moody (D) and Tom Oxford (L).
Incumbent Eva Guzman (R) won election to Place 9, defeating Blake Bailey (D) and Jack Armstrong (L).
In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Texas was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Texas received a score of 0.91. Based on the justices selected, Texas was the 3rd most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.
In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Texas earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.
| • Texas Supreme Court rules on Open Beaches Act||Click for summary→|
|Texans battled for beach ownership last week as the Texas Supreme Court heard a case regarding the Open Beaches Act. The court overturned an appellate ruling that gave the city of Surfside the right to refuse repairs and extend utilities to beachfront homes that were determined to be in the public right-of-way due to erosion.
Thirteen beachfront homeowners argued that the Texas General Land Office's attempts to force them to remove their houses from the public right-of-way amounted to property theft. The Land Office, in a similar situation on Galveston Island, argued that state money cannot legally be spent on private property and that the erosion moving houses to the public beach made that beachfront private property.Last year, the court determined that the 1959 Open Beaches Act, which was voted into the state Constitution in 2009 to allow public access to beaches, did not apply in the cases of an avulsive event. Such events could include a storm, which, by no fault of the homeowners, could cause erosion and move their house to the public beach. The court, on Friday, asked the lower court to reconsider its decision in light of last year's ruling.
The Republic of Texas' Constitution created a Supreme Court. The court consisted of a chief justice and associate justices, who were from the eight district courts of the state. These judges served with the chief justice from January 13, 1840, to December 29, 1845. At the end of 1845, Texas was admitted into the Union.
- News: Texas Supreme Court wins award, April 30, 2012
- Texas Supreme Court elections
- Courts in Texas
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
- Texas Court of Appeals
- Texas District Courts
- Texas Supreme Court elections
- Judicial selection in Texas
- Texas judicial news
- Judicial Activist Organizations in Texas
- Texas blogs
- The Supreme Court of Texas
- Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
- The Texas Tribune, "Report: Judicial disclosures in Texas rate an F," December 3, 2013
- Texas Courts Online, "Texas Courts: A Descriptive Summary"
- Supreme Court of Texas Blog
- St. Mary University School of Law, "Texas Supreme Court Webcasts"
- Texas History, "Opinions of the Supreme Court of Texas from 1840 to 1844 inclusive"
- Texas Supreme Court Historical Society
- The Supreme Court of Texas, "Orders & Opinions"
- CNN.com, "Texas high court: Removal of sect kids 'not warranted'," May 29, 2008
- Wikipedia: Texas Supreme Court
- American Judicature Society, "Methods of Judicial Selection: Texas," archived September 13, 2011
- Texas Office of Court Administration, "FY 2010 Annual Report for the Texas Judiciary," December 2010
- Texas Courts Online, “Annual Reports”
- "Other thoughts on Justice Brister’s departure" Supreme Court of Texas Blog, August 17, 2009
- Stanford University, "State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns," October 31, 2012
- Center for Public Integrity, "State supreme court judges reveal scant financial information," December 5, 2013
- The Houston Chronicle, "Texas Court hits open beaches law," January 25, 2013
- Supreme Court of Texas, "Republic History"
- The Supreme Court of Texas, "Court History," accessed October 8, 2014