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Constitution of the State of Texas (1869)

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ARTICLE V.

JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT.

SECTION I. The Judicial power of this State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, in District Courts, and in such inferior Courts and Magistrates as may be created by this Constitution, or by the Legislature under its authority.

The Legislature may establish Criminal Courts in the principal cities within the State, with such criminal jurisdiction, co-extensive with the limits of the County wherein such city may be situated, and under such regulations as may be prescribed by law; and the Judge thereof may preside over the Courts of one or more cities, as the Legislature may direct.

SECTION II. The Supreme Court shall consist of three Judges, any two of whom shall constitute a quorum. They shall be appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of nine years. But the Judges first appointed under this Constitution, shall be so classified by lot, that the term of one of them shall expire at the end of every three years. The Judge whose term shall soonest expire shall be the presiding Judge. All vacancies shall be filled for the unexpired term. If a vacancy shall occur, or a term shall expire, when the Senate is not in session, the Governor shall fill the same by appointment, which shall be sent to the Senate within ten days after that body shall assemble, and, if not confirmed, the office shall immediately become vacant.

SECTION III. 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, believe that some error of law has been committed by the Judge before whom the cause was tried; provided, that said transcript of the record shall be presented within sixty days from the date of the trial, under such rules and regulations as shall be prescribed by the Legislature. 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 writ 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.

SECTION IV. The Supreme Court shall hold its sessions annually at the capital of the State.

SECTION V. The Supreme Court shall appoint its own Clerk, who shall hold his office for four years, unless sooner removed by the Court for good cause, entered of record on the minutes of the Court. The said clerk shall give bond in such manner as is now, or may hereafter be required by law.

SECTION VI. The State shall be divided into convenient Judicial Districts, for each of which one Judge shall be appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of eight years, who shall after his appointment reside within the District, and shall hold a Court three times a year in each County thereof, at such time and place as may be prescribed by law; provided, that at the first general election after the 4th of July, 1876, the question shall be put to the people, whether the mode of election of Judges of the Supreme and District Courts shall not be returned to.

SECTION VII. 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 the writ of habeas corpus, and all other 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 testementary 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.

SECTION VIII. In the trial of all criminal cases, the jury trying the same shall find and assess the amount of punishment to be inflicted, or fine to be imposed, except in cases where the punishment or fine shall be specifically imposed by law; provided, that in all cases where by law it may be provided that capital punishment may be inflicted; the jury shall have the right, in their discretion, to substitute imprisonment to hard labor for life.

SECTION IX. A Clerk of the District Court for each County shall be elected by the qualified electors in each County, who shall hold his office for four years, subject to removal by the Judge of said Court for cause spread upon the minutes of the Court. 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. And the Clerk of the District Court shall be recorder, for the County, of all deeds, bonds, and other instruments required by law to be recorded; and also ex officio Clerk of the Police of County Court; and by virtue of his office shall have control of the records, papers, and books of the District and County or Police Court, and shall generally perform the duties heretofore required of County and District Clerks.

SECTION X. The Judges of the Supreme and District Courts shall be removed by the Governor, on the address of two-thirds of the members elected to each House of the Legislature, for incompetency, neglect of duty, or other reasonable causes, which are not sufficient ground for impeachment; 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 defense, before any vote for such address shall pass. And, in all such cases, the vote shall be taken by yeas and nays, and entered in the journals of each House respectively.

SECTION XI. 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 counsel in the case. When the Supreme Court, or a quorum thereof, shall be thus disqualified to hear and determine 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 a Judge of the District Court is thus disqualified, the parties may, by consent, appoint a proper person to try the case, and upon their failing to do so, the case shall be transferred for trial to the County, in the adjoining District, whose County seat is nearest to that of the County where the case is pending. 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; and when the District Judge is disqualified to try any case, or cases, within his District, the Governor of the State, on such facts being certified to him, may appoint some person, learned in the law, to try such case, or cases, who shall receive such compensation, as may be given by law. The disqualification of Judges of inferior tribunals shall be remedied as prescribed by law.

SECTION XII. There shall be a District Attorney elected by the qualified voters of each Judicial District, who shall hold his office for four years; and the duties, salaries and perquisites of District Attorney shall be prescribed by law.

SECTION XIII. The Judges of the Supreme Court shall receive a salary of not less than four thousand five hundred dollars annually, and the Judges of the District Court, a salary not less than three thousand five hundred dollars annually. And the salaries of the Judges shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

SECTION XIV. Where a vacancy shall occur in the office of Judge of the District Court, at a time when the Senate is not in session, the Governor shall fill the same by appointment, which shall be sent to the Senate, within ten days after that body shall assemble; and if not confirmed, the office shall immediately become vacant.

SECTION XV. The 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 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."

SECTION XVI. In all cases of law or equity, when the matter in controversy shall be valued at or exceed ten dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, unless the same shall be waived by the parties or their attorneys, except in cases where a defendant may fail to appear and answer, within the time prescribed by law, and the cause of action is liquidated and proved by an instrument in writing.

SECTION XVII. Every criminal offense that may be law be punished by death, or in the discretion of the jury 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, and shall only be tried upon an indictment found by a Grand Jury. 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.

SECTION XVIII. One Sheriff for each county shall be elected by the qualified voters thereof, who shall hold his office for four years, subject to removal by the Judge of the District Court for said county, for cause spread upon the minutes of the Court. 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.

SECTION XIX. There shall be elected in each county, by the qualified voters thereof, as may be directed by law, five Justices of the Peace, one of whom shall reside, after his 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.

SECTION XX. Justices of the Peace shall have such civil and criminal jurisdiction as shall be provided by law. And the Justices of the Peace in each county, or any three of them, shall constitute a 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 the Justice who resides at the County seat shall be the presiding Justice. 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. Justices of the Peace shall also discharge all the duties of Coroner, except such as by section XXI of this article, are devolved upon Constables.

SECTION XXI. Each county shall be divided into five Justices' precincts. And the Justices of the Peace in each county, sitting as a County Court, shall appoint one Constable for each Justice's 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 such cases as heretofore devolved those duties upon the Coroner.

SECTION XXII. Sheriffs and Justices of the Peace shall be commissioned by the Governor.

SECTION XXIII. Sheriffs, District Clerks and Justices of the Peace, when acting as such, and when acting as a County Court, shall receive such fees or other compensation as may be provided for by law.

SECTION XXIV. All County and District officers, whose removals are not otherwise provided for, may be removed, on conviction by a jury, after indictment, for malfeasance, nonfeasance, or misfeasance in office.

SECTION XXV. 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 trail by jury.

SECTION XXVI. 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 by law.