Supreme Court of Texas

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Supreme Court of Texas
Seal of the Supreme Court of Texas.png
Seal of the Supreme Court
Established 1840[1]
Country Texas Texas, United States United States
Location Austin, Texas
Authorized by Texas Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Chief Justice
Currently Nathan Hecht
Since October 1, 2013
Texas Supreme Court Building

The Supreme Court of Texas is the court of last resort for civil matters (including juvenile delinquency which the law considers to be a civil matter and not criminal) in the state of Texas. A different court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, is the court of last resort for criminal matters in the State of Texas.

The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. The Court meets in Downtown Austin, Texas in a building located on the state Capitol grounds, behind the Texas State Capitol.

Regulation of the legal profession in Texas[edit]

By statute, the Texas Supreme Court has administrative control over the State Bar of Texas, an agency of the judiciary.[2] The Texas Supreme Court has the sole authority to license attorneys in Texas,[3] and also appoints the members of the Board of Law Examiners[4] which, under instructions of the Supreme Court, administers the Texas bar examination.[5]

Justices of the Court[edit]

The Court has a Chief Justice and eight associate justices. Each member of the Court must be at least 35 years of age, a citizen of Texas, licensed to practice law in Texas, and must have practiced law (or have been a lawyer and a judge of a court of record together) for at least ten years.[6] The Clerk of the Court is appointed by the Justices and serves a four-year term.

Election of members of the Court[edit]

The Chief Justice and the associate justices are elected to staggered six-year terms in state-wide partisan elections. When a vacancy arises the Governor of Texas may appoint Justices, subject to Senate confirmation, to serve out the remainder of an unexpired term until the next general election. As of 2010, six of the current Justices, a majority, were originally appointed by Governor Rick Perry. The current Justices, like all the Judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, are all Republican.

The place numbers have no special meaning as all justices are elected state-wide, except that the Chief Justice position is considered "Place 1".

Women on the Court[edit]

Hortense Sparks Ward, who became the first woman to pass the Texas Bar Exam in 1910, was appointed Special Chief Justice of an all-female Texas Supreme Court 15 years later. All of the court's male justices recused themselves from Johnson v. Darr, a 1924 case involving the Woodmen of the World, and, since nearly every member of the Texas Bar was a member of that fraternal organization, paying personal insurance premiums that varied with the claims decided against it, no male judges or attorneys could be found to hear the case.[7] After ten months of searching for suitable male replacements to decide the case, Governor Pat Neff decided on January 1, 1925, to appoint a special court composed of three women. This court, consisting of Ward, Hattie Leah Henenberg, and Ruth Virginia Brazzil, met for five months and ultimately ruled in favor of Woodmen of the World.[8]

On July 25, 1982, Ruby Kless Sondock became the court's first regular female justice, when she was appointed to replace the Associate Justice James G. Denton who had died of a heart attack. Sondock served the remainder of Denton's term, which ended on December 31, 1982, but did not seek election to the Supreme Court in her own right.[9] Rose Spector became the first woman elected to the court in 1992 and served until 1998 when she was defeated by Harriet O'Neill.[10]

Current Justices[edit]

Justice Party Affiliation Place Date Service Began Term Ends
Nathan L. Hecht
Chief Justice
January 1, 1989
Don R. Willett
August 24, 2005
Debra Lehrmann
June 21, 2010
John P. Devine
January 1, 2013
Paul W. Green
January 1, 2005
Jeff Brown
October 3, 2013
Jeffrey S. Boyd
December 3, 2012
Phil Johnson
April 11, 2005
Eva Guzman
October 8, 2009
  1. ^ Term ends in 2018 but must run in 2014 to keep position

History of membership of the Court[edit]

Succession of seats[edit]

Supreme Court Committees[edit]

Judicial Committee on Information Technology (JCIT)

Created in 1997 JCIT was established to set standards and guidelines for the systematic implementation and integration of information technology into the trial and appellate courts in Texas.

JCIT approaches this mission by providing a forum for state-local, inter-branch, and public-private collaboration, and development of policy recommendations for the Supreme Court of Texas. Court technology, and the information it carries, are sprawling topics, and Texas is a diverse state with decentralized funding and decision-making for trial court technology. JCIT provides a forum for discussion of court technology and information projects. With this forum, JCIT reaches out to external partners such as the Conference of Urban Counties, the County Information Resource Agency,, and TIJIS (Texas Integrated Justice Information Systems), and advises or is consulted by the Office of Court Administration on a variety of projects.

Three themes consistently recur in the JCIT conversation: expansion and governance of electronic filing; the evolution and proliferation of court case management systems; and the evolution and governance of technology standards for reporting and sharing information across systems in civil, family, juvenile, and criminal justice.

The Founding Chair of JCIT from 1997-2009 was Peter S. Vogel, a partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP in Dallas, and since 2009 the JCIT Chair has been Justice Rebecca Simmons.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Tex. Gov’t Code section 81.011.
  3. ^ Tex. Gov't Code sections 81.061 and 82.021
  4. ^ Tex. Gov't Code section 82.001
  5. ^ Tex. Gov't Code section 82.004.
  6. ^ Tex. Const., Art. 5, Sec. 2.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Hortense Sparks Ward (1875-1944)". Justices of Texas 1836-1986. Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas at Austin. October 16, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Ruby Kless Sondock (born 1926)". Justices of Texas 1836-1986. Tarlton Law Library, The University of Texas at Austin. October 16, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 
  10. ^ Cruse, Don (January 8, 2008). "An Unusual History of Women Serving on the Texas Supreme Court". The Supreme Court of Texas Blog. Retrieved July 16, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Haley, James L. The Texas Supreme Court: A Narrative History, 1836–1986 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. xxviii, 322 pp.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 30°16′33″N 97°44′28″W / 30.275853°N 97.741054°W / 30.275853; -97.741054