Article V, Section 1 of the Texas Constitution ("Judicial Power Vested in Courts; Legislative Power Regarding Courts")

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As amended November 4, 1980:

The judicial power of this State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, in one Court of Criminal Appeals, in Courts of Appeals, in District Courts, in County Courts, in Commissioners Courts, in Courts of Justices of the Peace, and in such other courts as may be provided by law.

The Legislature may establish such other courts as it may deem necessary and prescribe the jurisdiction and organization thereof, and may conform the jurisdiction of the district and other inferior courts thereto.

Editor Comments

As amended in 1891, this section read: "The judicial power of this State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, in Courts of Civil Appeals, in a Court of Criminal Appeals, in District Courts, in County Courts, in Commissioners Courts, in Courts of Justices of the Peace, and in such other courts as may be provided by law. The Criminal District Court of Galveston and Harris Counties shall continue with the district, jurisdiction, and organization now existing by law until otherwise provided by law. The Legislature may establish such other courts as it may deem necessary, and prescribe the jurisdiction and organization thereof, and may conform the jurisdiction of the district and other inferior courts thereto."

The last major restructuring of the Texas judiciary occurred in 1980. Cf. Joe Greenhill, The Constitutional Amendment Giving Criminal Jurisdiction to the Texas Courts of Civil Appeals and Recognizing the Inherent Power of the Texas Supreme Court, 33 Tex. Tech L. Rev. 377, 378 (2002) ("The constitutional amendment of 1980 is regarded by many as the most important change in our judicial structure in more than one hundred years.").

The first paragraph of this section lists the state's constitutional courts. Although listed, county commissioners courts are not a functional part of the Texas judiciary.

The second paragraph authorizes the legislature to establish other courts. Pursuant to that provision, the legislature has created a large number of statutory courts.

For an overview of the state's court system, review the following one-page chart recently published by the Office of Court Administration: Court Structure of Texas.

Attorney Steve Smith

Recent Decisions

  • Garcia v. City of Willis, 593 S.W.3d 201, 206 (Tex. 2019) (citations omitted) ("Standing consists of some interest peculiar to the person individually and not just as a member of the public. A plaintiff has standing to seek prospective relief only if he pleads facts establishing an injury that is 'concrete and particularized, actual or imminent, not hypothetical.' 'An opinion issued in a case brought by a party without standing is advisory because rather than remedying an actual or imminent harm, the judgment addresses only a hypothetical injury.' Our issuance of an advisory opinion would violate separation-of-powers principles as well as the open-courts provision of our Texas Constitution.")
  • Henry v. Cox, 520 S.W.3d 28, 36 (Tex. 2017) (footnotes omitted) ("For example, we held in Vondy that a district court could compel a commissioners court to pay a salary to constables . . . . So when the Uvalde County Commissioners Court refused to pay the constables at all, we held the district court had the authority to order payment. Again, part of this authority is derived from the judiciary's inherent authority to ensure the proper administration of justice. But the Texas Constitution also vests district courts with 'general supervisory control' over the commissioners courts by which the court can mandate the performance of a ministerial or nondiscretionary statutory duty.")
  • Heckman v. Williamson County, 369 S.W.3d 137, 162 (Tex. 2012) (footnotes omitted) ("Just as the Texas Constitution bars our courts from deciding a case when the plaintiff lacks standing, similarly, a court cannot not [sic] decide a case that has become moot during the pendency of the litigation. A case becomes moot if, since the time of filing, there has ceased to exist a justiciable controversy between the parties—that is, if the issues presented are no longer 'live,' or if the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome. . . . If a case is or becomes moot, the court must vacate any order or judgment previously issued and dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction.")
  • Provident Life & Acc. Ins. Co. v. Knott, 128 S.W.3d 211, 217 n.7 (Tex. 2003) ("[O]ur previous approval of the holding of a Texas Commission of Appeals decision indicates the Court's approval of the judgment and each holding of the Commission but not necessarily the reasoning expressed in the decision. McKenzie v. Withers, 109 Tex. 255, 206 S.W. 503, 503 (1918). Thus, this Court's approval of the Texas Commission of Appeals' decision in [Great S. Life Ins. Co. v. Johnson, 25 S.W.2d 1093 (Tex.Com.App. 1930)] did not indicate our agreement with its reasoning. Nevertheless, because the court of appeals and the Court in Tate analyzed Johnson, we discuss it also.")

Historic Decisions

  • Texas Ass'n of Bus. v. Texas Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d 440, 445-46 (Tex. 1993) (footnotes omitted) ("We therefore hold that standing, as a component of subject matter jurisdiction, cannot be waived in this or any other case and may be raised for the first time on appeal by the parties or by the court. We are aware that this holding conflicts with Texas Industrial Traffic League v. Railroad Commission, 633 S.W.2d 821, 823 (Tex. 1982) (per curiam). The analysis that leads us to the conclusion we reach here, however, compels us to overrule Texas Industrial Traffic League and disapprove of all cases relying on it to the extent that they conflict with this opinion.")
  • Kelly v. State, 724 S.W.2d 42, 46 (Tex.Crim.App. 1987) ("The amendment has been held to authorize the Legislature to create courts other than those constitutional courts identified in the first paragraph of Sec. 1, such as, for example, the Probate Court of Harris County, see State v. McClelland, 148 Tex. 372, 224 S.W.2d 706 (1949); the Domestic Relations Court of Potter County, see Jordan v. Crudgington, 149 Tex. 237, 231 S.W.2d 641 (1950); the County Court at Law of Dallas County . . . . However, the amendment does not give the Legislature the authority to deprive any other district court of, or to detract from, the jurisdiction specifically granted them by the constitution.")
  • Jordan v. Crudgington, 231 S.W.2d 641, 645 (Tex. 1950) ("It expressly recognizes in the Legislature two separate and distinct powers which it may exercise in establishing 'such other courts as it may deem necessary.' . . . But the amendment was adopted for the purpose of making it certain that the Legislature had the authority to establish courts other than constitutional courts, and that its acts in establishing them should not be stricken down on the ground that they were violative of what might be conceived by vague implications to be general spirit of the Constitution, or that they did not conform to the constitutional pattern for district courts or county courts.")
  • Ex Parte Richards, 155 S.W.2d 597, 599 (Tex. 1941) (citations omitted) ("Section 1 of Article V of the Vernon's Ann. St. Constitution of Texas contains the power for the creation of courts in Texas. . . . The Legislature cannot deprive regularly created district courts of the jurisdiction specifically conferred on them by the Constitution. By virtue of the provision embodied in Section 1 of Article V of the Constitution, above quoted, the Legislature created the Criminal District Court of Willacy County, and gave it jurisdiction of criminal cases, and certain civil cases specified in such Act. We do not think the Legislature violated any provision of the Constitution in doing this.")
  • Glover v. Cobb, 123 S.W.2d 794, 797 (Tex.Civ.App.–Dallas 1938, ref'd) ("Miss Glover asserts no interest, financial or otherwise, peculiar to herself; her interest is the same as that of the general public in the enforcement of law, or at least that part of the public consisting of women who, if eligible, are competent for jury service. So, we conclude that, neither in her individual nor representative capacity does Miss Glover assert a justiciable right . . . . The doctrine just announced is sustained by the following authorities: City of San Antonio v. Strumberg, 70 Tex. 366, 7 S.W. 754; Staples v. State ex rel. King, 112 Tex. 61, 245 S.W. 639; Yett v. Cook, 115 Tex. 205, 216, 222, 281 S.W. 837.")
  • Ferguson v. Maddox, 263 S.W. 888, 893-94 (Tex. 1924) ("It must determine whether or not the articles presented by the House set forth impeachable offenses, and it must determine whether or not these charges are sustained by the evidence produced. . . . The courts, in proper cases, may always inquire whether any department of the government has acted outside of and beyond its constitutional authority. The acts of the Senate, sitting as a court of impeachment, are not exempt from this judicial power; but so long as the Senate acts within its constitutional jurisdiction, its decisions are final. As to impeachment, it is a court of original, exclusive, and final jurisdiction.")
  • Missouri, K. & T. Ry. Co. of Texas v. Shannon, 100 S.W. 138, 141 (Tex. 1907) ("The exception is the commissioners' courts, which are not properly a part of the judicial department. But the whole scope of the article shows clearly what is meant by the judicial department of the government. The word 'judicial' is, however, used, not with strict accuracy . . . . This question came up in the case of Arnold v. State, 71 Tex. 259, 9 S.W. 120, and it was there held that the land board, which was created under the act of 1883, and which was composed of the Governor, the Attorney General, the Comptroller, Treasurer, and Commissioner of the General Land Office, was a lawful body.")
  • Commissioners Court v. Beall, 81 S.W. 526, 528 (Tex. 1904) ("[T]here is a class of cases in which this rule can not be applied. For example, the Legislature may pass a statute which both confers civil rights and declares offenses punishable in the criminal courts, the validity of which as a whole may be questioned. Under such a law both a civil action may be brought or a criminal prosecution instituted. The question of the validity of the act is peculiar to neither jurisdiction. Under it, if valid, there are not only civil rights to be protected, but also criminal offenses to be prosecuted. Upon the question of the validity of the act neither court should be bound by the decision of the other.")
  • Harris County v. Stewart, 41 S.W. 650, 655 (Tex. 1897) ("The language 'and in such other courts as may be established by law,' was nullified by the decisions of the supreme court in the cases mentioned. The courts and lawyers were in constant trouble as to the jurisdiction of courts . . . . When the legislature of the state came to formulate the amendment to be submitted to the people, one of the principal objects was to avoid the force of that class of decisions, and to render elastic the judicial system provided for in the constitution, so that the needs of the state which might develop in its future growth could be provided for by the legislature from time to time.")
  • Storrie v. Cortes, 38 S.W. 154, 159 (Tex. 1896) ("Such a decision as that sought would be violative of the fundamental principles of our jurisprudence, and an assumption of power forbidden to be exercised by the court, and would involve the administration of justice in many and insurmountable difficulties; but we will not pursue this part of the case farther. We believe that we must do one of two things . . . . The policy of conferring upon this court the power to limit its decisions to the future is a question for the people, and we cannot, under any notion of injustice, overstep the constitutional limitation to our power, no matter howsoever desirable the departure might be.")
  • Williams v. Taylor, 19 S.W. 156, 156 (Tex. 1892) ("The power of the courts, under the form of government common to the states of this Union, to declare void an act of the legislature on the ground that such legislation is prohibited by the constitution of the state was questioned at an early day in the history of our jurisprudence, but that the power exists is now settled beyond controversy. As to the authority of the courts in such cases there should never have been any serious question. In passing a law the legislature acts under the authority conferred by a written constitution, and whether or not it has exceeded its authority in the passage of any particular act is a judicial question.")
  • State v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., 17 S.W. 60, 64-65 (Tex. 1891) ("If it did not, it had no right to intervene in the suit pending between other parties, and the action of the court worked no deprivation of right. . . . The rule universally asserted is that, to entitle any person or corporation to maintain an action, it must be shown that the one instituting the suit or action has an interest in the subject-matter of litigation, either in his own right or in a representative capacity, and a state is not exempt from this rule; though it ought to be conceded that such representative character could be established by a positive law, when the relation would not be held to exist in its absence.")
  • Hearne v. Gillett, 62 Tex. 23, 27 (1884) ("In overruling the motion for rehearing in this cause, it is proper to state that the opinion of the commissioners of appeals in Smyth v. Veal, 2 Tex. L. Rep., 261, so much relied on to sustain the motion, was never adopted by this court. The conclusions of the commissioners in affirming the cause were adopted, but this does not make the case . . . . We do not wish to be understood as dissenting from that portion of the opinion in Smyth v. Veal referred to in the motion, or as passing upon it in any manner whatever. It will be time enough to do that when a case requiring our decision upon the very question discussed in the opinion is presented.")
  • Henderson v. Beaton, 52 Tex. 29, 33 (1879) ("In our opinion, the commission is not a court, because it acts only by consent of both parties, and even then is without jurisdiction to render or power to enforce a judgment. It has no jurisdiction, for consent cannot give jurisdiction. It is but a convenient and suitable board of referees or arbitrators, provided to facilitate the adjustment of litigated cases pending in the courts of last resort, available only where both parties agree that the case be so referred. It is not a tribunal before which any litigant can be forced to come with his appeal. The constitutional Supreme Court and Court of Appeals are still open to every party.")
  • Willis v. Owen, 43 Tex. 41, 49 (1875) ("The questions to be considered in these cases have no application whatever to the title or transfer of property, or to matters of contract. They involve the construction and interpretation of the organic law, and present for consideration the structure of the government, the limitations upon legislative and executive power, as safeguards against tyranny and oppression. . . . But in such case the former decision or previous construction is received and weighed merely as an authority tending to convince the judgment of the correctness of the particular conclusion, and not as a rule to be followed without inquiry into its correctness.")

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