HOW DO I SEARCH TEXAS COURT RECORDS?
Texas Court Case records are held and maintained by the individual court in the state. Access to these records is governed by common law, statutory law, and court rules. In accordance with the statues of the Texas Public Information Act, citizens may request to inspect or copy these court records from each courthouse. A requestor may gain access to Texas Court case records in one of these three ways:
- For appellate, justice, and municipal court case records, the requestor can contact the court directly
- For district and county court case records, contact the local district clerk or county clerk in the jurisdiction where the case was filed.
- For counties offering case search capability on their courts' websites, requestors may access case records online.
Note, case records sealed or expunged by law or court order may not be available for public view. Where certified court records are required, the requestor may visit the courthouse where the case was filed. The Clerks of the Court are the legal custodians of such records at each court.To determine the locations of courthouses in the state and the contacts of judicial officers in each county, consider the directories provided on the Texas Judicial Branch website.
HOW TO GET CALIFORNIA COURT RECORDS ONLINE FOR FREE?
Truly free court records do not exist, though the public may access electronic copies of available Texas Court records. Electronic copies of case records from The Supreme Court of Texas, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the Courts of Appeals are available online via Texas Appellate Management E-file System (TAMES). This tool allows a search of the database by
- case number,
- date filed,
- attorney number,
- Trial Court case
- Originating Court of Appeal (COA)
- Trial Court
Users are allowed to print copies of these electronic formats from their personal access point/computer.
Electronic copies of Texas Trial Courts case records are not available for all counties in the state. To determine the availability of online search capability for a specific county's trial court records, visit the county's courthouse website. Alternatively use the interactive map of Texas counties provided on the Texas Judicial Branch website to locate a specific county's court records portal. For any county with available electronic court records, the user will find a 'case search' link on such a county's webpage.
As registered users, members of the public may also access all civil case records (except those of justice of the peace courts) from all 254 counties on the state portal re:searchTX. The records on this online repository available to the public date back to November 2018. In-depth access comes at an additional charge.
Court records are considered open to the public and are usually accessible through government sources, though they may also be accessed through third-party websites. These websites offer an easier method in most cases, as they are not limited by geographical area, or by limitations in search engine technology. They can often serve as a starting point when looking for a specific record, or multiple records. Interested parties must usually provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. This may not apply to records on juveniles.
- The assumed or known location of the person listed in the record. This will most often be a city, county, or state.
Because they are not government-sponsored, record availability on third party websites may vary when compared to government sources.
HOW DOES THE TEXAS COURT SYSTEM WORK?
As obtained in most jurisdictions in the U.S. States, the Texas court system has two levels; the Trial Courts and the Appellate Courts. Texas Trial Courts exist on three different levels including:
- Local Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
- County Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
- State Trial Courts of General and Special Jurisdiction.
The Local Trial Courts consist of 940 Municipal Courts and 803 Justice Courts, while the County Trial Courts are made up of 517 County-Level Courts. At the State Trial Court level, there are 457 District Courts.
Similarly, Texas Appellate Court System has two categories including the Intermediate Appellate Courts (which is represented by the 14 Courts of Appeals in the state), and the highest appellate courts. There are two divisions to Texas' highest appellate courts. The Supreme Court is the first leg serving as the final appellate jurisdiction in civil and juvenile cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals is the other leg and serves as the final appellate jurisdiction in criminal cases.
WHAT ARE TEXAS TRIAL COURTS?
These are courts of original jurisdiction which means that all evidence is presented and all testimonies are heard in these courts. In the Texas Trial Court system, there are several different categories of courts with each handling different types of cases. Texas Trial Courts include the district courts, county courts, county courts of law, probate courts, justice courts, and municipal courts.
HOW DOES THE TEXAS DISTRICT COURT WORK?
The Texas district courts are the state's trial courts of general jurisdiction. By law, each county must be served by at least one district court. While several counties that are sparsely populated may be served by a single district court, some urban counties are served by multiple district courts within the same county. Of the 457 District Courts in Texas, 98 are serving more than one county.
Similarly, while these District Courts covering less-populated counties handles all types of criminal and civil cases, District Courts in larger counties like Harris may specialize in civil, criminal, juvenile, or family law matters. The jurisdiction of these District Courts though "general" are in practice limited by the constitutional or statutory provisions conferring exclusive, original, or appellate jurisdiction on other courts serving the same county or counties. Hence, in general, the jurisdiction of the District Court covers:
- Original jurisdiction in civil actions over $200,
- Divorce cases,
- Cases involving title to land,
- Contested elections cases,
- Original jurisdiction in felony criminal matters
- Juvenile matters
- Any matters in which jurisdiction is not placed in another trial court.
HOW DOES THE TEXAS COUNTY COURT WORK?
Each of the 254 counties in Texas has a county court as established by the State's Constitution, though these courts do not exercise judicial functions. These are called Constitutional County Courts with duties set out under the Chapters 25 and 26 of the Texas Government Code to include:
- Exclusive jurisdiction over all criminal cases involving Class A and Class B misdemeanors (these are the more serious minor offenses.)
- Concurrent jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in controversy is less than $10,000
- Appellate jurisdiction over the justice of the peace and municipal court cases
While the Constitution limits every county to a single county court, the state's Legislature has established County Courts at Law to relieve the county judge of judicial duties in 94 of the most populous counties. These Statutory County Courts at Law have broader jurisdiction than the Constitutional County Courts and may vary from county to county. For example, in counties like Dallas, this court's jurisdiction is concurrent with the jurisdiction of the district courts. While counties like Travis the jurisdiction is concurrent with both the county and district courts.
Also, in the more populous counties, the Legislature may have specialized courts created to hear probate matters exclusively. These Probate Courts handle probate, guardianship, trust, and mental health cases. Statutory Probate Courts are present in 10 of Texas 15 largest metropolis. These are across Bexar, Collin, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Galveston, Harris, Hidalgo, Tarrant, and Travis counties.
In total, the 510 County-Level Courts in Texas include 254 Constitutional County Courts, 238 Statutory County Courts, and 18 Statutory Probate Courts. The Statutory County Courts are established in 88 Counties plus 1 Multi-county Court for Fisher, Mitchell, and Nolan counties.
HOW DOES THE TEXAS JUSTICE COURT WORK?
With regard to its population size, the state constitution mandates each county to establish between one and eight justice of the peace precincts. Similarly, each of these precincts may establish either one or two justice of peace courts. In General, Justice Courts has the following jurisdictions:
- Original jurisdiction in Class C misdemeanor criminal cases, which are less serious minor offenses
- Exclusive jurisdiction over small claims matters,
- Concurrent jurisdiction with the county courts when the amount in controversy exceeds $200 but does not exceed $10,000;
Note trials in justice courts are not "of record" and appeals are by trial de novo in the constitutional county court, the county court at law, or the district court.
HOW DOES THE TEXAS MUNICIPAL COURT WORK?
Each incorporated city in Texas has a municipal court created by the state's Legislature. Some larger cities have multiple municipal courts depending on the city's population size and its needs. The 940 Municipal Courts in the state are served by over 1,300 judges. Like Justice Courts, Municipal Courts are not Courts of Record except those established by such municipalities as municipal courts of record. Some 170 courts identify as a municipal court of record.
Note appeals from municipal courts are by trial de novo in the county-level courts, and in some instances in the district courts. While appeals from the courts are taken on the record to the county-level courts. As outlined in the State Government Code, the jurisdiction of municipal courts includes:
- Original and exclusive jurisdiction over violations of city ordinances and, within the city limits,
- Concurrent jurisdiction with justice of the peace courts over Class C misdemeanor criminal cases where the punishment upon conviction is by small fine only.
WHAT ARE TEXAS APPELLATE COURTS?
While most cases end at the Trial Courts level in the state, persons unhappy with the outcome of their case may appeal to one of the 14 State Courts of Appeals. Note appellate courts only review the evidence and exhibits presented in the trial court and do try cases. These courts have intermediate appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases appealed from the lower courts except in cases of the death penalty. The jurisdiction of each of these courts is limited to a designated geographical region of the state, with only the first and the fourteenth Courts of Appeal exercising concurrent jurisdiction over the same ten counties.
A Court of Appeal in Texas is presided over by a Chief Justice supported by at least two other justices at each hearing. While there is a minimum of three justices per Court of Appeal, the specific number of serving justice may be up to 13 as set by a government statute. Currently,80 justices are serving on the panels of the 14 intermediate courts of appeals. These 14 Courts of Appeals seat in the following cities:
- 1st Court of Appeals-Houston
- 2nd Court of Appeals-Fort Worth
- 3rd Court of Appeals-Austin
- 4th Court of Appeals-San Antonio
- 5th Court of Appeals-Dallas
- 6th Court of Appeals-Texarkana
- 7th Court of Appeals-Amarillo
- 8th Court of Appeals-El Paso
- 9th Court of Appeals-Beaumont
- 10th Court of Appeals-Waco
- 11th Court of Appeals-Eastland
- 12th Court of Appeals-Tyler
- 13th Court of Appeals-Corpus/Edinburg
- 14th Court of Appeals-Houston
At the highest appellate level, Texas is one of the only two states in the nation with two courts of last resort. These are the Texas Supreme Court hearing appeals involving civil matters (which include juvenile cases), and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals hearing appeals involving criminal matters. Both courts consist of a Chief Justice/Presiding Judge and eight justices. Note, death Penalty cases are directly and automatically appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals. While juvenile criminal cases are heard by the Supreme Court as they are considered civil matters under the Texas Family Code.
HOW MANY CASES DOES THE TEXAS COURT SYSTEM HANDLE ANNUALLY?
Some eight to nine million court cases are filed by lawyers and litigants in the Texas court system every year. According to the Texas Judiciary Annual Statistical Reports, more than 8.6 million cases were filed in 2016 while in 2019 that figure stood at over 9 million cases. In 2015 alone, the Texas Judiciary reported dispositions in a total of 9.97 million cases.