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Timeline of the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals

Created by Adrienne Sonder, Archivist, Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas at Austin, November 2006.

Prior to 1836

Judicial power was vested in the municipal alcalde, an elected official who held executive, legislative and judicial duties.

1836 - Texas Supreme Court established

Following the Texas Revolution, the newly independent government establishes a judicial system based on Anglo-American common law. In this system, the Texas Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, and consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices. The associate justices also serve as judges of the eight district courts of Texas.

January 1840

The Texas Supreme Court holds its first term.

1845

The Supreme Court is restructured. The eight district judges no longer serve on the Supreme Court, and in their place, two associate justices are appointed, by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Supreme Court then consists of two associate justices and a chief justice.

1850

A constitutional amendment makes the offices of the Supreme Court elected.

1867-1869

Texas comes under U.S. military command following the civil war. Military authorities remove the chief justice and the associate justices of the Texas Supreme Court, calling them "impediments to reconstruction." Replacements are appointed.

1876

To relieve the Texas Supreme Court of part of its heavy caseload, the Constitution of 1876 establishes a 3-judge Court of Appeals with appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases.

1879

The Texas Legislature creates a Commission of Appeals to hear cases pending in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

1891

The judicial system is restructured after it fails to provide sufficient relief to the Supreme Court. In the new system, the Commission of Appeals has been eliminated, the Court of Appeals is renamed the Court of Criminal Appeals, and intermediate Courts of Civil Appeals are established to provide lower-level appellate courts for civil cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals maintains exclusive appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases. The new judicial system begins in 1892.

1918

The Texas Legislature re-establishes The Commission of Appeals to assist the Supreme Court in keeping up with its docket.

1925

The Texas Legislature establishes a 2-person Commission of Appeals, appointed by the Governor, to help the Court of Criminal Appeals meet its workload. The decisions of the Commission become final upon approval by the regular judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

1934

The Court of Criminal Appeals receives statutory authority to select its commissioners.

1945

Membership of the Supreme Court increased to a chief justice and eight associate justices.

1966

A constitutional amendment increases the number of judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals from three to five by making the two commissioners full judges (beginning in 1967). The amendment also extends the Court's session from 9 months to 12 months a year, and allows state voters, instead of judges, to select presiding judges in future years.

1969

The Commission of Appeals is reestablished by the Legislature to assist the Court of Criminal Appeals in meeting its huge workload.

1977

A constitutional amendment expands the Court of Criminal Appeals to 9 members, effective 1978. The amendment also empowers the court to sit in panels of 3 judges in non-capital cases. For capital cases, all 9 judges are required to sit.

1980

Courts of Civil Appeals gain intermediate criminal appellate jurisdiction and are renamed Courts of Appeals, relieving the Court of Criminal Appeals of some of its large caseload.

Sources

Baade, Hans W., Law and Lawyers in Pre-Independence Texas in Centennial History of the Texas Bar 240 (Committee on History and Tradition of the State Bar of Texas; Burnet, TX: Eakin Press, 1981).

Bell, Judge Spurgeon E., A History of the Texas Courts in Centennial History of the Texas Bar 194 (Committee on History and Tradition of the State Bar of Texas; Burnet, TX: Eakin Press, 1981).

Davenport, Jewette Harbert. The History of the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, (Austin, Texas: Southern Law Book Publishers, 1917).

Judiciary, Handbook of Texas Online (accessed November 16, 2006).
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/JJ/jzj1.html

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Handbook of Texas Online (accessed November 16, 2006).
http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/TT/jpt1.html

Texas Judiciary Online (accessed November 16. 2006).
http://www.courts.state.tx.us

Wheeler, C.A. Judicial history of Court of Appeals and Court of Criminal Appeals: Judges and Officials, 166 Texas Criminal Reports xvii (1958).