Tx Govt Ch 11 Summary

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The Texas judiciary has many critics and perceived flaws. The Texas court system is often viewed as too big and complicated. Lines of jurisdiction sometimes overlap. Legislation dealing with court personnel, organization, and procedures is often a maze of confusion. Crowded court dockets usually result in new courts, not court realignment. Reorganization of the courts along more simplified lines has been urged for decades.

Juries are an important aspect of the American judicial system. The judicial system has two primary types of juries: (1) A grand jury issues indictments that indicate whether sufficient evidence exists to bring the accused to trial. (2) A petit jury is a jury in a criminal or civil trial. Potential jury members can be excluded from service through either a challenge for cause or a peremptory challenge


The judiciary performs a vital role in our society. Courts make life altering decisions and often shape public policy. In Texas, where judges are chosen in partisan elections, the selection of judges is very politicized. The politics of the Texas court system have led to numerous controversies and suggested reforms. Judicial reform in Texas is difficult to achieve and continues to be unlikely to occur.

There are two types of jurisdiction: (1) Original jurisdiction is the basic power to try a case for the first time. Courts with original jurisdiction determine guilt in criminal cases or responsibility in civil cases. (2) Appellate jurisdiction is the ability to review the decisions of a lower court.


Cases in the legal system can be classified in two ways: (1) Civil cases deal primarily with individual or property rights, and (2) criminal cases deal with violations of penal law.

Some states use a system of nonpartisan election in which judges do not run as a party’s nominee and their party affiliation does not appear on the ballot. Supporters of this judicial selection method argue that justice is not a partisan matter and that voters should not elect candidates simply because of their party membership.


Including Texas, fewer than 10 states use partisan elections to select judges. Supporters of partisan elections argue that judges are public officials and that voters should not be denied the right to elect them in the same way that they elect other public officials. Defenders argue that party labels are relevant because they give voters cues about a judicial candidate’s political philosophy. Critics reason that campaigning for judicial positions introduces conflicts of interest due to campaign contributions from special interest groups with a stake in court decisions. They argue that party labels, ethnicity, personality, and organization overshadow judicial competence in political campaigns.

Many states use a merit plan for the selection of judges. Variations of this plan, sometimes called the Missouri plan, include the nomination of judges by a judicial qualifying commission. After a short term appointment by the governor, voters are allowed to decide whether to retain the judge. In some states with the merit plan, candidates are allowed to run against the incumbent judge, whereas in others, voters simply vote on the issue of whether to retain or remove the judge. Supporters argue that this judicial selection plan emphasizes qualifications and reduces the effects of campaigning and politics.