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Constitution of the State of West Texas (1868)

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ARTICLE IV.

JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT.

SECTION 1. The judicial power of this State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, in District Courts, and in such inferior courts as the Legislature may from time to time ordain and establish; and such jurisdiction may be vested in corporation courts as may be deemed necessary, and be directed by law.

SEC. 2. The Supreme Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and two Associates, and two of whom shall form a quorum.

SEC. 3. The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction only, which in civil causes shall be co-extensive with the limits of the State. In criminal causes no appeal shall be allowed to the Supreme Court, unless some Judge thereof shall, upon inspecting a transcript of the record sent up under such regulations as may be prescribed by law, believe that some error of law has been committed by the Judge before whom the cause was tried. Appeals from interlocutory judgments may be allowed, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Legislature may prescribe. The Supreme Court and the Judges thereof shall have power to issue the writ of habeas corpus, and under such regulations as may be prescribed by law, may issue the write of mandamus, and such other writs as may be necessary to enforce its own jurisdiction. The Supreme Court shall also have power to ascertain such matters of fact as may be necessary to the proper exercise of its jurisdiction.

SEC. 4. The Supreme Court shall hold a session at the seat of government annually, between the months of October and June, and shall appoint its own Clerks, who shall hold their offices for four years, and be subject to removal by said court for neglect of duty, misdemeanor in office, and such other causes as may be prescribed by law.

SEC. 5. The Judges of the Supreme Court shall hold their offices for the term of twelve years, and the Judges of the District Court for eight years. The terms of the Supreme Judges shall be so arranged that the office of one shall become vacant at the end of every four years, and when, by death, resignation or other cause than expiration of term, a vacancy occurs, the appointment to the same shall be for the unexpired term. The Judges of the Supreme Court and District Courts, the Attorney General and District Attorneys, shall be appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate; Provided, that at the first general election after the year one thousand eight hundred and eighty, (1880,) the question shall be submitted to vote, whether these officers shall thereafter be elected by the people.

SEC. 6. The State shall be divided into convenient judicial districts. For each district there shall be chosen a Judge who shall reside in the same, and hold the Courts at one place in each county, and at least three times in each year, in such manner as may be prescribed by law.

SEC. 7. The Judges of the Supreme Court shall receive a salary of four thousand dollars annually, and the Judges of the District Court a salary of three thousand dollars annually, and the salaries of the Judges shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

SEC. 8. The Judges of the Supreme and District Courts shall be removed by the Governor, on the address of two-thirds of each House of the Legislature, for wilful neglect of duty or other reasonable cause; Provided, however, that the cause or causes for which such removal shall be required, shall be stated at length in such address, and entered on the journals of each House; and provided further, that the cause or causes shall be notified to the Judge so intended to be removed; and he shall be admitted to a hearing in his own defence before any vote for such address shall pass: And in all such cases, the vote shall be taken by yeas and nays, and entered on the journals of each House respectively.

SEC. 9. All Judges of the Supreme 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 West Texas." All prosecutions shall be carried on in the name and by the authority of the "State of West Texas," and conclude, "Against the peace and dignity of the State."

SEC. 10. The District Court shall have original jurisdiction of all criminal cases; of all causes in behalf of the State to recover penalties, forfeitures and escheats; and of all suits and cases in which the State may be interested; of all cases of divorce; of all suits to recover damages for slander or defamation of character; of all suits for the trial of title to land; of all suits for the enforcement of liens; and of all suits, complaints, and pleas whatever, without regard to any distinction between law and equity, when the matter in controversy shall be valued at or amount to one hundred dollars, exclusive of interest; and the said Courts and the Judges thereof shall have power to issue all writs necessary to enforce their own jurisdiction, and to give them a general superintendence and control over inferior tribunals. The District Court shall also have appellate jurisdiction in cases originating in inferior Courts, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the Legislature may prescribe. And the District Court shall also have original and exclusive jurisdiction for the probate of wills, for the appointing of guardians, for the granting of letters testamentary and of administration; for settling the accounts of executors, administrators, and guardians, and for the transaction of all business appertaining to the estates of deceased persons, minors, idiots, lunatics, and persons of unsound mind; and for the settlement, partition, and distribution of such estates, under such rules and regulations as may be prescribed by law.

SEC. 11. There shall be a Clerk of the District Court for each County, who shall be elected by the qualified voters for members of the Legislature, and who shall hold his office for four years, subject to removal by information, or by presentment of a grand jury and conviction by a petit jury. In case of vacancy, the Judge of the district shall have the power to appoint a Clerk, until the next general election. The said clerk shall exercise such powers and perform such duties appertaining to the estates of deceased persons, lunatics, idiots, minors, and persons of unsound mind, in vacation, as may be prescribed by law. Provided that all contested issues of law or fact, shall be determined by the District Court.

By virtue of his office the District Clerk shall have control of all records, papers, and books of the District Court.

SEC. 12. There shall be chosen an Attorney General for the State, and a District Attorney for each Judicial District, who shall hold their offices for four years. The duties, salaries and perquisites of the Attorney General and District Attorneys shall be prescribed by law.

SEC. 13. There shall be elected in each county by the qualified voters of the different precincts thereof as may be directed by law, at least five Justice of the Peace, one of whom shall reside, after the election, at the county seat, and not more than one of said Justices shall be a resident of the same justice's precinct. They shall hold their offices for four years, and should a vacancy occur in either of said offices, an election shall be held for the unexpired term. They shall have such civil and criminal jurisdiction as shall be provided by law. And the Justices of the Peace in each county, or a majority of them, shall constitute a Court, to be called the "County Court," having such jurisdiction similar to that heretofore exercised by County Commissioners and Police Courts, as may be prescribed by law. And when sitting as such Court, they shall from among themselves choose their presiding officer. The times and manner of holding said Courts shall be prescribed by law. Justices of the Peace shall also be commissioned to act as Notaries Public. They shall also discharge all the duties of Coroner, and they shall have such fees and emoluments as may be fixed by law.

SEC. 14. The Justices of the Peace in each county, sitting as a County Court, shall appoint one Constable for each Justices' Precinct, who shall hold his office for four years, subject to removal by said Court for cause spread upon the minutes of the Court. And said Constables, or either of them, in addition to the ordinary duties of their office, shall discharge the duties of Sheriff in all cases where the Sheriff is disqualified or prevented from acting, or where the law may so provide.

SEC. 15. One Sheriff for each county shall be elected by the qualified voters thereof, who shall hold his office for four years, subject to removal on information, or presentment, and conviction by a petit jury. Process against the Sheriff, and all such writs as by reason of interest in the suit, or connection with the parties, or for other cause, the Sheriff is incompetent to execute, shall issue to and be executed by any Constable in the County. In case of vacancy in the office of Sheriff, the same may be filled by appointment of the Governor, until the next general election.

SEC. 16. There shall be a clerk elected by the voters of each county, who shall hold his office for four years. He shall attend upon and keep the records of the County Court, and shall act as recorder of instruments of writing for his county. He shall keep his office at the county seat, and shall perform such other duties and receive such fees and emoluments as may be fixed by law. He shall also be commissioned as a Notary Public. In case of vacancy in the office of County Clerk, the County Court may choose a person to fill the same until the regular election for this office.

SEC. 17. No Judge shall sit in any case wherein he may be interested, or where either of the parties may be connected with him by affinity or consanguinity, within such degrees as may be prescribed by law, or where he shall have been of counsel in the cause. When the Supreme Court or any two of its members shall be thus disqualified to hear and determine any cause of causes in said Court, or when no judgment can be rendered in any case or cases in said Court, by reason of the equal division of opinion of said Judges, 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 case or cases. When the Judges of the District Court are thus disqualified, the parties may, by consent, appoint a proper person to try the said case; and the Judges of the said courts may exchange districts, or hold courts for each other, when they may deem it expedient, and shall do so when directed by law, and the Governor may in such case appoint some person learned in the law, to try the case or cases whenever the Judge of the Court is disqualified, and the person so appointed shall receive such compensation as may be given by law.--The disqualification of Judges of inferior tribunals shall be remedied as may hereafter be by law prescribed.

SEC. 18. In the trial of all causes in the District Court, the plaintiff or defendant shall, upon application made in open court, have the right of trial by jury, to be governed by the rules and regulations prescribed in trials at law.

SEC. 19. In all cases arising out of a contract, before any inferior tribunal, when the amount in controversy shall exceed ten dollars, the plaintiff or defendant shall, upon application to the presiding officer, have the right of trial by jury.

SEC. 20. In all cases where Justices of the Peace, or other judicial officers of inferior tribunals shall have jurisdiction in the trial of causes, where the penalty for the violation of a law is fine or imprisonment, (except in cases of contempt,) the accused shall have the right of trial by jury.

SEC. 21. In case of incompetency or improper conduct on the part of a clerk of the District Court, or a Sheriff, such officer may be removed by the Governor, on recommendation of the District Judge, and in case this remedy is applied, the place of the officer removed shall be filled by appointment of the Governor, until the next general election.

SEC. 22. Capital offences shall be punished by imprisonment to hard labor for life, and every offense that may by law be punished by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary, shall be deemed a felony, but all offenses of a less grade than a felony, may be prosecuted upon complaint under oath, by any peace officer or citizen before any Justice of the Peace, or other inferior tribunal that may be established by law, and the party so prosecuted shall have the right of trial by a jury, to be summoned in such manner as may be prescribed by law.

SEC. 23. The Grand Jury system is hereby dispensed with in this State. The prosecution of offences in this State shall be by information or presentment of the District Attorney or Attorney General. The filing before any competent officer of an affidavit charging an offense, shall be sufficient to authorized and require an information or presentment before the proper tribunal. To the District Attorney or Attorney General is given the same authority heretofore exercised by Grand Juries, and these officers are required to institute examinations in regard to any offences that may be brought to their notice. For the institution of prosecutions for offences less than felony, the Legislature may authorize some more simple proceeding. The Legislature shall provide all needful regulations for carrying out the spirit and intent of this and the last preceding section: provided, that if the dispensing with the Grand Jury system shall be found inconvenient, the Legislature may, after five years from the acceptance of this Constitution by the United States Congress, re-establish that system.

SEC. 24. In all trials by Jury, the agreement of three-fourths of the Juryman shall be sufficient to find a verdict.

SEC. 25. In all civil suits within this State, interest in the result of any suit, on the part of the person offering to testify therein, shall not be deemed a valid objection to his testimony, but the same shall go to the Court or Jury, and be weighed and considered.