courts. The top range of the civil jurisdiction is unlimited, hence, civil matters involving large sums of money (e.g., millions of dollars) are held in district courts. Civil matters make up more than two thirds of the caseload of district courts. With regard to criminal cases, the district courts handle felony cases such as drug cases, burglaries, thefts, murders, and assaults. Appellate Courts Regional courts of appeal, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Texas Supreme Court make up the state’s appellate court system. These appellate courts hear appeals filed by those who have lost a decision in a lower court. The legal briefs filed by the two sides make up the principal arguments considered by the judges on a appellate court. These briefs argue settled points of law (known as precedent) which have been decided previously by appellate courts. When an appeals court decides to hear a case on appeal, the court generally schedules a hearing at which attorneys for the two sides in the dispute present oral arguments and answer questions posed by the justices. When the court announces its decision, it may issue a majority or deciding opinion. Members of the court who disagree with the ruling may issue dissenting opinions. Texas has 14 regional courts of appeal, each serving a specific geographic area called a Court of Appeals District. Each court of appeals has civil and criminal jurisdiction on appeals from the trial courts located in its district. The courts of appeals hear both civil and criminal cases, except death penalty appeals, which are considered directly by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals after a death penalty decision is handed down in a district court, bypassing consideration by a regional appellate court. The Texas highest court level is bifurcated---split in two. In all but two states (Texas and Oklahoma) there is one high court in the state which hears both civil and criminal cases. Texas has a high court that hears only civil and one that hears only criminal law appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has nine judges. It is the court of last resort for all criminal cases in the state. Decisions of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court when they involve matters of federal law or the U.S. Constitution. The Texas Supreme Court is the appellate court of highest authority on matters of civil law, although losers in cases decided by the Texas Supreme Court may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if they can demonstrate that an issue under federal law or the U.S. Constitution is involved. In addition to its judicial functions, the Texas Supreme Court plays an important role in administering the judicial branch of state government.
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- Fall '08
- Supreme Court of the United States, Trial court, pg