County Courts

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There is a County Court for each of the 254 counties in Texas. The Texas Constitution states that "[t]here shall be established in each county in this State a County Court ..." Sections 15 through 17 of Article V, as well as Chapters 25 and 26 of the Texas Government Code, outline the duties of these Courts and their officers.

The county court has exclusive jurisdiction over "Class A" and "Class B" misdemeanors (these offenses can involve jail time), concurrent jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in controversy is moderately sized, and appellate jurisdiction over JP and municipal court cases (for municipal court cases, this may involve a trial de novo if the lower court is not a "court of record").

Section 15 states that the County Court shall be a "court of record". Section 16 states that the County Court "has jurisdiction as provided by law"; Section 17 states that the County Court shall hold terms as provided by law and that County Court juries shall consist of six persons, but in civil cases a jury shall not be impaneled unless one of the parties demands it and pays a jury fee or files an affidavit stating that it is unable to do so.

Since the county judge is also responsible for presiding over the Commissioners Court (the main executive and legislative body of the county), in 94 counties the Texas Legislature has established county courts at law to relieve the county judge of judicial duties. The first multi-county statutory county court (composed of Fisher, Mitchell, and Nolan counties) was created in 2013. In most counties with courts at law, the civil and criminal jurisdiction of the constitutional county court has been transferred to the county courts at law. The county courts at law may hear both civil and criminal matters, or hear them separately, depending on how the Legislature has structured them. Unlike the county judge, judges of the county courts of law are required to be attorneys.