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Constitution of the State of Texas (1876)

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ARTICLE V.
Judicial Department.

SECTION 1. The judicial power of this State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, in a Court of Appeals, in District Courts, in County Courts, in Commissioners' Courts, in Courts of Justices of the Peace, and in such other courts and may be established by law. The Legislature may establish Criminal District Courts with such jurisdiction as it may prescribe, but no such court shall be established unless the district includes a city containing at least thirty thousand inhabitants as ascertained by the census of the United States or other official census; provided, such town or city shall support said Criminal District Courts when established. 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.

SEC. 2. The Supreme Court shall consist of a chief justice and two associate justices, any two of whom shall constitute a quorum, and the concurrence of two judges shall be necessary to the decision of a case. No person shall be eligible to the office of chief justice or associate justice of the Supreme Court unless he be at the time of his election a citizen of the United States and of this State, and unless he shall have attained the age of thirty years, and shall have been a practicing lawyer or a judge of a court in this State, or such lawyer and judge together, at least seven years. Said chief justice and associate justices shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State at a general election, shall hold their offices for six years, and shall each receive an annual salary of not more than three thousand five hundred and fifty dollars. In case of a vacancy in the office of the chief justice or associate justice of the Supreme Court, the governor shall fill the vacancy until the next general election for State officers, and at such general election the vacancy for the unexpired term shall be filled by election by the qualified voters of the State.

SEC. 3. The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction only, which shall be co-extensive with the limits of the State; but shall only extend to civil cases of which the District Courts have original or appellate jurisdiction. Appeals may be allowed from interlocutory judgments of the District Courts, in such cases and under such regulations as may be provided by law. The Supreme Court and the judges thereof shall have power to issue, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law, the writ of mandamus and all other writs necessary to enforce the jurisdiction of said court. The Supreme Court shall have power upon affidavit or otherwise, as by the court may be thought proper, to ascertain such matters of fact as may be necessary to the proper exercise of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court shall sit for the transaction of business from the first Monday in October until the last Saturday in June of every year, at the seat of government, and at not more than two other places in the State.

SEC. 4. The Supreme Court shall appoint a clerk for each place at which it may sit, and each of said clerks shall give bond in such manner as is now or may hereafter be required by law; shall hold his office for four years, and shall be subject to removal by said court for good cause entered of record on the minutes of said court.

SEC. 5. The Court of Appeals shall consist of three judges, any two of whom shall constitute a quorum, and the concurrence of two judges shall be necessary to a decision of said court. They shall be elected by the qualified voters of the State at a general election. They shall be citizens of the United States and of this State; shall have arrived at the age of thirty years at the time of election, each shall have been a practicing lawyer, or a judge of a court in this State, or such lawyer and judge together for at least seven years. Said judges shall hold their offices for a term of six years, and each of them shall receive an annual salary of three thousand five hundred and fifty dollars, which shall not be increased or diminished during their term of office.

SEC. 6. The Court of Appeals shall have appellate jurisdiction, co-extensive with the limits of the State in all criminal cases, of whatever grade, and in all civil cases, unless hereafter otherwise provided by law, of which the County Courts have original or appellate jurisdiction. In civil cases its opinions shall not be published unless the publication of such opinions be required by law. The Court of Appeals and the judges thereof shall have power to issue the writ of habeas corpus; and under such regulations as may be prescribed by law, issue such writs as may be necessary to enforce its own jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals shall have power upon affidavits, or otherwise, as by the court may be thought proper, to ascertain such matters of fact as may be necessary to the exercise of its jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals shall sit for the transaction of business from the first Monday of October until the last Saturday of June of every year, at the capital, and at not more than two other places in the State, at which the Supreme Court shall hold its sessions. The court shall appoint a clerk for each place at which it may sit, and each of said clerks shall give bond in such manner as is now or may hereafter be required by law; shall hold its office for four years, and shall be subject to removal by the said court for good cause, entered of record on the minutes of said court.

SEC. 7. The State shall be divided into twenty six judicial districts, which may be increased or diminished by the Legislature. For each district there shall be elected, by the qualified voters thereof, at a general election for members of the Legislature, a judge, who shall be at least twenty-five years of age, shall be a citizen of the United States, shall have been a practicing attorney or a judge of a court in this State for the period of four years, and shall have resided in the district in which he is elected for two years next before his election; shall reside in his district during his term of office; shall hold his office for the term of four years, shall receive an annual salary of twenty five hundred dollars, which shall not be increased or diminished during his term of service; and shall hold the regular terms of court at one place in each county in the district twice in each year, in such manner as may be prescribed by law. The Legislature shall have power by general act to authorize the holding of special terms, when necessary, and to provide for holding more than two terms of the court in any county, for the dispatch of business; and shall provide for the holding of District Courts, when the judge thereof is absent, or is from any cause disabled or disqualified from presiding.

SEC. 8. The District Court shall have original jurisdiction in criminal cases of the grade of felony; of all suits in behalf of the State to recover penalties, forfeitures and escheats; of all cases of divorce; in cases of misdemeanors involving official misconduct; of all suits to recover damages for slander or defamation of character; of all suits for the trial of title to land; and for the enforcement of liens thereon; of all suits for trial of right to property levied on by virtue of any writ of execution, sequestration, or attachment, when the property levied on shall be equal to or exceed in value five hundred dollars; and of all suits, complaints, or pleas whatever, without regard to any distinction between law and equity, when the matter in controversy shall be valued at, or amount to five hundred dollars exclusive of interest; and the said courts and the judges thereof shall have power to issue writs of habeas corpus in felony cases, mandamus, injunction, certiorari,and all writs necessary to enforce their jurisdiction. The District Courts shall have appellate jurisdiction and general control in probate matters over the County Court established in each county for appointing guardians granting letters testamentary and of administration, for settling the accounts of executors, administrators and guardians, and for the transaction of business appertaining to estates; and original jurisdiction and general control over executors, administrators, guardians and minors, under such regulations as may be prescribed by the Legislature. All cases now pending in the Supreme Court of which the Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction under the provisions of this Article, shall, as soon as practicable after the establishment of said Court of Appeals, be certified, and the records transmitted in the Court of Appeals, and shall be decided by such Court of Appeals as if the same had been originally appealed to such court.

SEC. 9. There shall be a clerk for the District Court of each county, who shall be elected by the qualified voters for the State and county officers, and who shall hold his office for two years, subject to removal by information, or by indictment of a grand jury, and conviction by a petit jury. In cases of vacancy the judge of the District Court shall have the power to appoint a clerk, who shall hold until the office can be filled by election.

SEC. 10. In the trial of all causes in the District Courts, the plaintiff or defendant shall, upon application made in open court, have the right of trial by jury; but no jury shall be empanneled in a civil case unless demanded by a party to the case, and a jury fee be paid by the party demanding a jury, for such sum, and with such exceptions as may be prescribed by the Legislature.

SEC. 11. No judge shall sit in any case wherein he may be interested, where either of the parties may be connected with him by affinity or consanguinity, within such degree as may be prescribed by law, or where he shall have been counsel in the case. When the Supreme Court, or the Appellate Court, or any two of the members of either, shall be thus disqualified to hear and determine any case or cases in said court, the same shall be certified to the governor of the State, who shall immediately commission the requisite number of persons learned in the law, for the trial and determination of said cause or causes. When a judge of the District Court is disqualified by any of the causes above stated, the parties may, by consent, appoint a proper person to try said case; or, upon their failing to do so, a competent person may be appointed to try the same in the county where it is pending, in such manner as may be prescribed by law. And the district judges may exchange districts or hold courts for each other, when they may deem it expedient, and shall do so when directed by law. The disqualification of judges of inferior tribunals shall be remedied, and vacancies in their offices shall be filled, as prescribed by law.

SEC. 12. All judges of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals and District Courts shall, by virtue of their offices, be conservators of the peace throughout the State. The style of all writs and process shall be "The State of Texas." All prosecutions shall be carried on in the name and by the authority of "The State of Texas," and conclude "against the peace and dignity of the State."

SEC. 13. Grand and petit juries in the District Courts shall be composed of twelve men, but nine members of a grand jury shall be a quorum to transact business and present bills. In trials of civil cases, and in trials of criminal cases below the grade of felony in the District Courts, nine members of the jury, concurring, may render a verdict, but when the verdict, shall be rendered by less than the whole number, it shall be signed by every member of the jury concurring in it. When, pending the trial of any case, one or more jurors not exceeding three, may die, or be disabled from sitting, the remainder of the jury shall have the power to render the verdict; provided, that the Legislature may change or modify the rule authorizing less than the whole number of the jury to render a verdict.

SEC. 14. The Judicial Districts in this State and the time of holding the courts therein are fixed by ordinance forming part of this Constitution, until otherwise provided by law.

SEC. 15. There shall be established in each county in this State a County Court, which shall be a court of record; and there shall be elected in each county, by the qualified voters, a county judge, who shall be well informed in the law of the State, shall be a conservator of the peace, and shall hold his office for two years, and until his successor shall be elected and qualified. He shall receive as a compensation for his services such fees and perquisites as may be prescribed by law.

SEC. 16. The County Court shall have original jurisdiction of all misdemeanors, of which exclusive original jurisdiction is not given to the Justice's Court, as the same are now or may be hereafter prescribed by law, and when the fine to be imposed shall exceed two hundred dollars; and they shall have exclusive original jurisdiction in all civil cases when the matter in controversy shall exceed in value two hundred dollars, and not exceed five hundred dollars, exclusive of interest; and concurrent jurisdiction with the District Courts, when the matter in controversy shall exceed five hundred and not exceed one thousand dollars, exclusive of interest, but shall not have jurisdiction of suits for the recovery of land. They shall have appellate jurisdiction in cases, civil and criminal, of which Justices' Courts have original jurisdiction, but of such civil cases only when the judgment of the court appealed from, shall exceed twenty dollars exclusive of costs, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law. In all appeals from Justices' Courts, there shall be a trial de novo in the County Court, and when the judgment rendered or fine imposed by the County Court shall not exceed one hundred dollars such trial shall be final, but if the judgment rendered or fine imposed shall exceed one hundred dollars, as well as in all cases, civil and criminal, of which the County Court has exclusive or concurrent original jurisdiction, an appeal shall lie to the Court of Appeals, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law. The County Courts shall have the general jurisdiction of a Probate Court. They shall probate wills, appoint guardians of minors, idiots, lunatics, persons non compos mentis, and common drunkards, grant letters testamentary and of administration, settle accounts of executors, administrators and guardians, transact all business appertaining to the estates of deceased persons, minors, idiots, lunatics, persons non compos mentis, and common drunkards, including the settlement, partition and distribution of estates of deceased persons, and to apprentice minors, as provided by law. And the County Courts, or judges thereof, shall have power to issue writs of mandamus, injunction, and all other writs necessary to the enforcement of the jurisdiction of said courts, and to issue writs of habeas corpus in cases where the offense charged is within the jurisdiction of the County Court, or any other court or tribunal inferior to said court. The County Court shall not have criminal jurisdiction in any county were there is a Criminal District Court, unless expressly conferred by law; and in such counties appeals from Justices' Courts and other inferior courts and tribunals, in criminal cases shall be to the Criminal District Courts under such regulations as may be prescribed by law, and in all such cases an appeal shall lie from such District Courts to the Court of Appeals. Any case pending in the County Court, which the county judge may be disqualified to try, shall be transferred to the District Court of the same county for trial; and where there exists any cause disqualifying the county judge for the trial of a cause of which the County Court has jurisdiction, the District Court of such county shall have original jurisdiction of such cause.

SEC. 17. The County Court shall hold a term for civil business at least once in every two months, and shall dispose of probate business, either in term time or vacation as may be provided by law, and said court shall hold a term for criminal business once in every month as may be provided by law. Prosecutions may be commenced in said court by information filed by the county attorney, or by affidavit, as may be provided by law. Grand juries empanneled in the District Courts shall inquire into misdemeanors, and all indictments therefor returned into the District courts shall forthwith be certified to the County Courts or other inferior courts, having jurisdiction to try them for trial; and if such indictment be quashed in the County, or other inferior court, the person charged shall not be discharged if there is probably cause of guilt, but may be held by such court or magistrate to answer an information or affidavit. A jury in the County Court shall consist of six men, but no jury shall be impaneled to tray a civil case unless demanded by one of the parties, who shall pay such jury fee therefor, in advance, as may be prescribed by law unless he makes affidavit that he is unable to pay the same.

SEC. 18. Each organized county in the State now or hereafter existing, shall be divided from time to time, for the convenience of the people, into precincts, not less than four and not more than eight. The present County Courts shall make the first division. Subsequent divisions shall be made by the Commissioners' Court, provided for by this Constitution. In each such precinct there shall be elected at each biennial election, one justice of the peace and one constable, each of whom shall hold his office for two years and until his successor shall be elected and qualified; provided, that in any precinct in which there may be a city of eight thousand or more inhabitants, there shall be elected two justices of the peace. Each county shall in like manner be divided into four commissioners' precincts, in each of which there shall be elected by the qualified voters thereof one county commissioner, who shall hold his office for two years and until his successor shall be elected and qualified. The county commissioners so chosen, with the county judge, as presiding officer, shall compose the County Commissioners' Court, which shall exercise such powers and jurisdiction over all county business, as is conferred by this Constitution and the laws of this State, or as may be hereafter prescribed.

SEC. 19. Justices of the peace shall have jurisdiction in criminal matters of all cases where the penalty or fine to be imposed by law may not be more than for two hundred dollars, and in civil matters of all cases where the amount in controversy is two hundred dollars or less, exclusive of interest, of which exclusive original jurisdiction is not given to the District or County Courts; and such other jurisdiction, criminal and civil, as may be provided by law, under such regulations as may be prescribed by law; and appeals to the County Courts shall be allowed in all cases decided in Justices' Courts where the judgment is for more than twenty dollars exclusive of costs, and in all criminal cases; under such regulations as may be prescribed by law. And the justices of the peace shall be ex officio notaries public; and they shall hold their courts at such time and places as may be provided by law.

SEC. 20. There shall be elected for each county, by the qualified voters, a county clerk, who shall hold his office for two years, who shall be clerk of the County and Commissioners' Courts and recorder of the county, whose duties, perquisites and fees of office shall be prescribed by the Legislature, and a vacancy in whose office shall be filled by the Commissioners' Court, until the next general election for county and State officers; provided, that in counties having a population of less than eight thousand persons there may be an election of a single clerk, who shall perform the duties of district and county clerks.

SEC. 21. A county attorney, for counties in which there is not a resident criminal district attorney, shall be elected by the qualified voters of each county, who shall be commissioned by the governor, and hold his office for the term of two years. In case of vacancy the Commissioners' Court of the county shall have power to appoint a county attorney until the next general election. The county attorneys shall represent the State in all cases in the District and inferior courts in their respective counties, but if any county shall be included in a district in which there shall be a district attorney, the respective duties or district attorneys and county attorneys shall in such counties by regulated by the Legislature. The Legislature may provide for the election of district attorneys in such districts, as may be deemed necessary, and make provision for the compensation of district attorneys, and county attorneys; provided, district attorneys shall receive an annual salary of five hundred dollars to be paid by the State, and such fees commissions and perquisites as may be prescribed by law.

SEC. 22. The Legislature shall have power, by local or general law, to increase, diminish or change the civil and criminal jurisdiction of County Courts; and in cases of any such change of jurisdiction the Legislature shall also conform the jurisdiction of the other courts to such change.

SEC. 23. There shall be elected by the qualified voters of each county a sheriff, who shall hold his office for the term of two years, whose duties, and perquisites, and fees of office, shall be prescribed by the Legislature, and vacancies in whose office shall be filled by the Commissioners' Court until the next general election for county or State officers.

SEC. 24. County judges, county attorneys, clerks of the District and County Courts, justices of the peace, constables, and other county officers, may be removed by the judge of the District Courts for incompetency, official misconduct, habitual drunkenness, or other causes defined by law, upon the cause therefor being set forth in writing, and the finding of its truth by a jury.

SEC. 25. The Supreme Court shall have power to make rules and regulations for the government of said court, and the other courts of the State, to regulate proceedings and expedite the dispatch of business therein.

SEC. 26. The State shall have no right of appeal in criminal cases.

SEC. 27. The Legislature shall, at its first session, provide for the transfer of all business, civil and criminal, pending in District Courts, over which jurisdiction is given by this Constitution to the County Courts, or other inferior courts, to such County or inferior courts, and for the trial or disposition of all such causes by such County or other inferior courts.

SEC. 28. Vacancies in the office of judges in the Supreme Court of the Court of Appeals, and District Court, shall be filled by the governor until the next succeeding general election; and vacancies in the office of county judge, and justices of the peace, shall be filled by the Commissioners' Court, until the next general election for such offices.