Article I, Section 15 of the Texas Constitution ("Right of Trial by Jury")

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As amended August 24, 1935:

The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate. The Legislature shall pass such laws as may be needed to regulate the same, and to maintain its purity and efficiency. Provided, that the Legislature may provide for the temporary commitment, for observation and/or treatment, of mentally ill persons not charged with a criminal offense, for a period of time not to exceed ninety (90) days, by order of the County Court without the necessity of a trial by jury.

Editor Comments

This section has been amended once. The 1935 amendment added a third sentence to the original text.

That proviso was a response to the Texas Supreme Court's White v. White decision referenced below.

Note that Article V, Section 10 guarantees the "right of trial by jury" for "all causes in the District Courts."

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • General Motors Corp. v. Gayle, 951 S.W.2d 469, 476 (Tex. 1997) ("General Motors argues that the trial court abused its discretion by not granting a continuance for at least thirty days, which would have rendered General Motors' jury request and payment timely. See Halsell v. Dehoyos, 810 S.W.2d 371, 371 (Tex. 1991) (where case is continued, new trial date determines whether payment of jury fee is timely). Under the unique facts of this case, we agree. The right to jury trial is one of our most precious rights, holding 'a sacred place in English and American history.' White v. White, [] 196 S.W. 508, 512 (1917).")
  • Barshop v. Medina County Underground Water Conservation Dist., 925 S.W.2d 618, 636 (Tex. 1996) ("Similarly, we conclude that there was no governmental scheme in 1876 to regulate natural resources such as the Edwards Aquifer. We therefore hold that no right to jury trial under article I, section 15 of the Texas Constitution attaches to appeals from the permit adjudications under the Act since these are not actions, or analogous actions, which were tried to a jury at the time the Texas Constitution was adopted. We next consider the right to trial by jury protected by article V, section 10 of the Texas Constitution.")

Historic Decisions

  • Ex parte Moser, 602 S.W.2d 530, 533 (Tex.Crim.App. 1980) (citations omitted) ("The first of these is that the procedure infringed on the right to trial by jury which is guarantied by Article I, Section 15, of the Texas Constitution. We have held frequently that that right does not include any right to have a jury assess punishment. There is even less merit in the applicant's claim that the procedure violates a statutory . . . . The Legislature having statutorily created assessment of punishment by the jury, the Legislature may alter or abolish that procedure (within the bounds of due process and other constitutional strictures).")
  • White v. White, 196 S.W. 508, 512 (Tex. 1917) ("[A]nd especially under the provision that 'the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate,' which language has formed a part of every Constitution of this state and of the Constitution of the republic of Texas as well, and of many Constitutions of our sister states, with a well-established import and meaning, the defendant in error clearly was entitled to a trial by jury, in the full constitutional sense, if that practice prevailed in this state, according to then existing laws, at the time of the adoption of said provisions as portions of our present state Constitution of 1876.")
  • Cockrill v. Cox, 65 Tex. 669, 672-73 (1886) ("All the constitutions of the Republic and State of Texas have preserved the right of trial by jury, in the same language. Const. of Republic, 9th clause of Declaration of Rights; Const. of 1845, sec. 12, art. 1; Const. of 1866, sec. 12, art. 1; Const. of 1869, sec. 12, art. 1; Const. of 1876, sec. 15, art. 1. . . . As far as the history of the practice is preserved in reported cases, the right of trial by jury, in such contests as this, has been recognized and exercised under all the constitutions and laws that, at different times, have prescribed the jurisdiction and regulated the procedure of our courts.")

Library Resources

Online Resources