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Texas Supreme Court

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Texas Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   9
Chief:  $
Associates:  $
Judicial selection
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Don Willett  •  Paul Green  •  Nathan Hecht  •  Phil Johnson  •  Eva Guzman  •  Jeff Brown (Texas)  •  Debra Lehrmann  •  John Devine (Texas)  •  Jeffrey S. Boyd  •  

Seal of Texas.png
File:Texas Supreme Court Building.JPG
Courthouse of the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin

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 Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the court of last resort for all criminal matters in Texas. Texas is one of just two states (the other being Oklahoma) that has two courts of last resort.

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.[1]


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Justice Don Willett2005-2018Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Paul Green2005-2016ElectedRepublican
Chief justice Nathan Hecht1989-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Phil Johnson2005-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Eva Guzman2009-2016Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Jeff Brown (Texas)2013-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Debra Lehrmann2010-2016Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice John Devine (Texas)2013-2018ElectedRepublican
Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd2012-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican

Chief justice

Wallace Jefferson is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. He ran for re-election to the court in 2008 against Democratic challenger Jim Jordan, and won with 53% of the vote. (See Texas Supreme Court elections for more information). Justice Jefferson is aligned with the Republican party.


The caseload of the Texas Supreme Court is determined by whether the court decides to grant a review of a judgment. The court has mandatory jurisdiction over writs of mandamus and habeas corpus.

"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."[2]

Judicial selection

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. [3]

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

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.[4]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2012 1,224 1,209
2011 1,235 1,247
2010 1,337 1,339
2009 1,245 1,196
2008 1,229 1,321
2007 1,244 1,337


"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."[2]

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.

Texas Supreme Court regular causes 1991-2010.png

Petitions for review
Texas Supreme Court petitions for review 1991-2010.png

Texas Supreme Court case processing time.png

Notable decisions

Template:Notable case format state judges


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

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.[6]

History of the court

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.[7]

The nine justices are elected to staggered six-year terms in state-wide partisan elections.[8] Elections are held every two years. Three seats (one third of the court) are up for grabs during each biennial election.


Chief Justice
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
HechtNathan Hecht YesRepublican60.5%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
OxfordTom Oxford NoLibertarianExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
MoodyWilliam Moody NoDemocratic100%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
TaltonRobert Talton NoRepublican39.5% 
Place 6
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
BrownJeff Brown (Texas) YesRepublican71.9%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
AshMark Ash NoLibertarianExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
MeyersLawrence Meyers NoDemocratic100%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
Place 7
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
BenavidesGina Benavides NoDemocratic100%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
FultonDon Fulton NoLibertarianExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
WaterburyCharles E. Waterbury NoGreenExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
BoydJeffrey S. Boyd YesRepublican100%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
Place 8
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
JohnsonPhil Johnson YesRepublican64.0%ApprovedAExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
KoelschRS Roberto Koelsch NoLibertarianExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   
McCallySharon McCally No36.0% 
ChisholmJim Chisholm NoGreenExpression error: Unexpected > operator.   


CandidateIncumbencyPartyPlacePrimary VoteElection Vote
MedinaDavid Medina    YesRepublicanPlace 446.7% 
WillettDon Willett   ApprovedAYesRepublicanPlace 257.7%ApprovedA78.8%   ApprovedA
ChisholmJim Chisholm    NoGreen1.3%   DefeatedD
DevineJohn Devine (Texas)   ApprovedANoRepublicanPlace 453.3%ApprovedA75.1%   ApprovedA
AshMark Ash    NoLibertarian3.0%   DefeatedD
PettyMichele Petty    NoDemocratic100%ApprovedA41.9%   DefeatedD
HechtNathan Hecht   ApprovedAYesRepublicanPlace 1100%ApprovedA53.7%   ApprovedA
KoelschRobert Stuart Koelsch    NoLibertarianPlace 221.2%   DefeatedD
SmithSteven W. Smith    No42.2% 
OxfordTom Oxford    NoLibertarian16.9%   DefeatedD


See also: Texas judicial elections, 2010

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 . [9]

Republican Debra Lehrmann won election to the open seat, Place 3, defeating Jill Sharp (D) and William Bryan Strange (L).

Texas Supreme Court, Place 3
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Debra Lehrmann (R) BallotCheckMark.png 2,907,796 59.87%
Jill Sharp (D) 1,809,498 37.26%
William Bryan Strange, III (L) 138,857 2.85%

Incumbent Paul Green (R) won re-election to Place 3, defeating Bill Moody (D) and Tom Oxford (L).

Texas Supreme Court, Place 5
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Paul Green (R) BallotCheckMark.png 2,903,359 60.02%
Bill Moody (D) 1,789,646 36.99%
Tom Oxford (L) 144,306 2.98%

Incumbent Eva Guzman (R) won election to Place 9, defeating Blake Bailey (D) and Jack Armstrong (L).

Texas Supreme Court, Place 9
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Eva Guzman (R) BallotCheckMark.png 2,919,054 60.34%
Blake Bailey (D) 1,722,753 35.61%
Jack Armstrong (L) 195,234 4.03%


See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Incumbent Wallace B. Jefferson defeated Democratic challenger Jim Jordan.

Texas Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Wallace B. Jefferson (R) BallotCheckMark.png n/a 53%
Jim Jordan (D) n/a 44%

Incumbent J. Dale Wainwright defeated democratic challenger Sam Houston.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 7
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
J. Dale Wainwright (R) BallotCheckMark.png 3,926,015 51.1%
Sam Houston (D) 3,525,141 45.88%

Incumbent Phil Johnson defeated Democratic challenger Linda Yanez.

Texas Supreme Court, Place 8
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Phil Johnson (R) BallotCheckMark.png n/a 52%
Linda Yanez (D) n/a 45%

Succession of judges

1945 - present

Chief Justice, Place 1[10]

Place 2[11]

Place 3[12]

Place 4[13]

Place 5[14]

Place 6[15]

Place 7[16]

Place 8[17]

Place 9[18]

Under Constitutions of 1845 and 1861

Chief Justices

Associate Justices

Under the Constitution of 1866 (1866-1870)

Removed by U.S. military authorities in 1867

Appointed by U.S. military authorities to replace them

Under the Constitution of 1868 (1870 - 1876)

July 5, 1870, to January 29, 1874

January 29, 1874, to April 18, 1876


Chief judges[19]

Associate judges[20]

See also

External links


TexasUnited States District Court for the Eastern District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Western District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Northern District of TexasUnited States District Court for the Southern District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Eastern District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Western District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of TexasUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of TexasUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fifth CircuitTexas Supreme CourtTexas Court of AppealsTexas Court of Criminal AppealsTexas District CourtsTexas County CourtsTexas County Courts at LawTexas Statutory Probate CourtsTexas Justice of the Peace CourtsTexas Municipal CourtsTexas countiesTexas judicial newsTexas judicial electionsJudicial selection in TexasTexasTemplate.jpg