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In the United States, the trial court initially hears a dispute between litigants. The trier of fact, either the judge or jury, determines which facts presented are true and which are not. The law is then applied to those facts. After the trial court's decision, the issues of fact cannot be appealed absent irregularity of procedure or bias in the fact-finding process – only issues of law can be submitted to the appellate courts.
After a ruling by a trial court, an intermediate appellate court will hear any issues of law appealed by one of the parties. Issues of law relate to the way the trial judge applied the law to the facts of the dispute during the trial. The facts themselves are not at issue. Once a ruling has been made, the judge writes an opinion of the decision, which becomes a “case” in the American body of law. The opinion of an appellate court is binding on all lower courts in that jurisdiction.
There are 14 appellate districts in Texas. The Texas Courts of Appeal hear both civil and criminal cases.
If the losing party still believes that its position is the legally correct one, it may appeal to the highest court in the jurisdiction. Again, the opinion of a court at this level is binding on all courts below it - appellate and trial.
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For more information about finding cases in the Tarlton Law Library, view Tarlton's Finding a Case guide.
To find cases from Texas state courts by subject, use a digest of Texas case law:
For more information on how to use a digest, view the section on finding a case by subject in Tarlton's Finding a Case guide:
Tarlton's Lexis and Westlaw subscriptions are limited to faculty, students, and staff. Tarlton offers on-site access to Nexis Uni, a LexisNexis product that provides extensive access to both state and federal cases. Nexis Uni is also available on campus through UT Libraries.
Tarlton's Texas Legal Research: Free Online Resources guide provides links to Texas court information available online. The Free Online Resources page of Tarlton's Finding a Case Guide provides information about free online access to Texas case law both from home and from local law libraries.