Article I, Section 29 of the Texas Constitution ("Bill of Rights Excepted from Powers of Government and Inviolate")

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Adopted February 15, 1876:

To guard against transgressions of the high powers herein delegated, we declare that every thing in this "Bill of Rights" is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate, and all laws contrary thereto, or to the following provisions, shall be void.

Editor Comments

This section, originally the last section of the Texas Bill of Rights, expressly declares the supremacy of the state constitution over the government of the State of Texas.

Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • Republican Party of Texas v. Dietz, 940 S.W.2d 86, 89-91 (Tex. 1997) ("[T]he purpose of the Texas Bill of Rights is to 'guard against transgressions of the high powers' delegated to the state government by the Texas Constitution. . . . Accordingly, based on the text of the Texas Bill of Rights, its history and purpose, our prior judicial decisions, the law in other jurisdictions, constitutional theory, and the concern for the liberty of all Texas citizens, we conclude that state action is required before a litigant can maintain a claim for deprivation of a right secured by the free speech, equal rights, and due course of law guarantees of the Texas Bill of Rights.")

Historic Decisions

  • City of Beaumont v. Bouillion, 896 S.W.2d 143, 148-49 (Tex. 1995) ("The framers of the Texas Constitution articulated what they intended to be the means of remedying a constitutional violation. The framers intended that a law contrary to a constitutional provision is void. There is a difference between voiding a law . . . . Such a declaration is different from seeking compensation for damages, or compensation in money for a loss or injury. Thus, suits for equitable remedies for violation of constitutional rights are not prohibited. Section 29 does not support the officers' claim that a private right of action for damages is implied under the Texas Constitution.")
  • Oakley v. State, 830 S.W.2d 107, 111 (Tex.Crim.App. 1992) (citations omitted) ("This language clearly indicates that this Court intends to follow the historical tradition of reading and construing the Constitution as a whole and not piecemeal as appellant has argued. Furthermore, we have determined that all constitutional provisions are subject to reinterpretation. '[N]either the substantive nor the procedural criminal law of this State is forever frozen' when a constitutional amendment is adopted. Therefore, we hold that Article I, Section 29, does not mandate that provisions in Article I of the Texas Constitution supersede all other constitutional provisions.")
  • Texas State Emps. Union v. Texas Dep't of Mental Health & Mental Retardation, 746 S.W.2d 203, 205 (Tex. 1987) (citation omitted) ("While the Texas Constitution contains no express guarantee of a right of privacy, it contains several provisions similar to those in the United States Constitution that have been recognized as implicitly creating protected 'zones of privacy.' . . . We do not doubt, therefore, that a right of individual privacy is implicit among those 'general, great, and essential principles of liberty and free government' established by the Texas Bill of Rights. We hold that the Texas Constitution protects personal privacy from unreasonable intrusion.")
  • City of Fort Worth v. Howerton, 236 S.W.2d 615, 618 (Tex. 1951) ("The system is functioning . . . . Clearly this creates a conflict and the rights accrued under the constitutional provision must prevail. The provisions of the Constitution were adopted by the people, while statutes are enacted by the Legislature; and the Legislature may enact, repeal, or amend statutes, but it does not have the power to repeal or amend the provisions of the Constitution. That power rests exclusively with the people. It is the general policy of the law, where rights have been fixed under a constitutional provision, that the Legislature is without power to destroy or impair such rights.")
  • Travelers' Insurance Co. v. Marshall, 76 S.W.2d 1007, 1010 (Tex. 1934) (citation omitted) ("We are asked, however, to hold that, under the police power, one of the powers of government vitalized by emergency conditions, the Legislature had the authority to pass the measure before us. We are asked to do this, although the Bill of Rights, section 16, expressly prohibits the enactment of laws impairing the obligation of contracts. Can we do this? Would we be warranted in saying that . . . . Obviously all these questions must be answered in the negative. This is so because the pronouncements of the Constitution are 'imperious, supreme and paramount.'")
  • Spann v. City of Dallas, 235 S.W. 513, 515 (Tex. 1921) ("The police power is subject to the limitations imposed by the Constitution upon every power of government; and it will not be suffered to invade or impair the fundamental liberties of the citizen, those natural rights which are the chief concern of the Constitution and for whose protection it was ordained by the people. All grants of power are to be interpreted in the light of the maxims of Magna Charta and the Common Law as transmuted into the Bill of Rights; and those things which those maxims forbid cannot be regarded as within any grant of authority made by the people to their agents.")
  • St. Louis Sw. Ry. Co. of Tex. v. Griffin, 171 S.W. 703, 704 (Tex. 1914) ("The citizen has the liberty of contract as a natural right which is beyond the power of the government to take from him. The liberty to make contracts includes the corresponding right to refuse to accept a contract or to assume such liability as may be proposed. When Griffin entered the service of the railroad company for an indefinite time, the law reserved to him the right to quit the service at any time without cause or notice to the employer. The railroad company had the corresponding right to discharge him at any time without cause or notice. The rights of the parties were mutual.")
  • Rochelle v. Lane, 148 S.W. 558, 560 (Tex. 1912) ("The judgment, being a judicial act, cannot be reviewed by an executive officer. . . . It is urged that previous Comptrollers have exercised the same power for many years. If that be true, it is time that it should be known in Texas that a disregard of the Constitution by the usurpation of power on the part of officials is not sanctified by its long continuance, and that each officer should confine his acts to the limits of his power. We would not disparage the zeal of respondent nor challenge the honesty of his purpose, but the superiority of the Constitution must be sustained until the sovereign voters shall change it.")

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