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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

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Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
Court information
Justices:   9
Chief:  $171,000
Associates:  $168,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Partisan election of judges
Term:   6 years
Active justices

Sharon Keller  •  Lawrence Meyers  •  Cheryl Johnson  •  Michael Keasler  •  Barbara Hervey  •  Elsa Alcala  •  Bert Richardson  •  Kevin Patrick Yeary  •  David Newell  •  

Seal of Texas.png
Judges of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the court of last resort for all criminal matters in Texas, whereas the Texas Supreme Court is the court of last resort for all civil matters in the state. Texas is one of just two states (the other being Oklahoma) that has two courts of last resort.

In addition to being the high court for criminal appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeals (in partnership with the Texas Supreme Court) "promulgates rules of appellate procedure and rules of evidence for criminal cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals also administers public funds that are appropriated for the education of judges, prosecuting attorneys, criminal defense attorneys who regularly represent indigent defendants, clerks and other personnel of the state’s appellate, district, county-level, justice, and municipal courts. promulgates rules of appellate procedure and rules of evidence for criminal cases."[1]


The court is composed of a presiding judge and eight judges. Each judge serves a six-year term. They are elected in staggered partisan elections.

The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Presiding Judge Sharon Keller1994-2018ElectedRepublican
Judge Lawrence Meyers1992-2016ElectedDemocratic
Judge Cheryl Johnson1998-2016ElectedRepublican
Judge Michael Keasler1998-2016ElectedRepublican
Judge Barbara Hervey2000-2018ElectedRepublican
Judge Elsa Alcala2011-2018Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Judge Bert Richardson2015-2020ElectedRepublican
Judge Kevin Patrick Yeary2015-2020ElectedRepublican
Judge David Newell2015-2020ElectedRepublican


Judicial selection

All judges in Texas are chosen in partisan elections. The governor, subject to senate confirmation, may appoint a judge to serve out the remainder of any unexpired term until the next general election. Like the Texas Supreme Court, the justices of the Court of Criminal Appeals are currently all Republican.[3]


A qualified candidate must be between 35 and 74 years of age, a United States citizen and a citizen of Texas. Judicial candidates must also be licensed to practice law in the state and have practiced law for at least ten years. Upon turning 75 years old, a judge may not serve more than another four years of their term.[4][3]

Presiding judge

The position of presiding judge is a separately designated elected seat from the others. Sharon Keller is the presiding judge of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Justice Keller is a Republican. She was elected as the first woman judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1994. In 2000, she was elected presiding judge and re-elected in 2006.

In 2013, Keller ended her battle with the Texas Ethics Commission after the commission agreed to accept a settlement. The commission had initially fined Keller $100,000 for ethics violations she allegedly committed in 2006 and 2007. The amount is the highest ethics fine ever assessed against a public official in the state.[5]


Courthouse of the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin

The Texas Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all civil cases, while the Court of Criminal Appeals exercises discretionary review over criminal cases. This means the court may choose whether or not to review a case. The only cases that the court must hear are those that involve sentencing decisions in capital punishment cases and other cases involving liberty issues, such capital punishment cases, cases where bail has been denied and habeas cases where a prisoner or person being detained attempts to prove some constitutional right has been violated as a result of their detention. The court, which is based in the state capital Austin, includes nine judges. Article V of the Texas Constitution vests the judicial power of the state in the court, describes the court's jurisdiction. It also details the rules for judicial eligibility, elections and filling vacancies on the court between elections.


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 11,101 11,549
2013 10,555 9,491
2012 10,480 9,217
2011 9,720 8,720
2010 9,229 8,257
2009 10,602 9,703
2008 11,046 9,879
2007 12,313 10,929


The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals hears both mandatory and discretionary cases. "All cases that result in the death penalty are automatically directed to the Court of Criminal Appeals from the trial court level. A significant portion of the Court’s workload also involves the mandatory review of applications for post conviction habeas corpus relief in felony cases without a death penalty, over which the Court has sole authority. In addition, decisions made by the intermediate courts of appeals in criminal cases may be appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals by petition for discretionary review, which may be filed by the State, the defendant, or both. However, the Court may also review a decision on its own motion."[1]

The chart below displays the court's mandatory caseload from 2001 to 2010. Mandatory cases comprised 76.7 percent of the overall caseload in 2010.[1]

Texas Court Criminal Appeals Mandatory Cases 2001-2010.png


"In the 2010 fiscal year, the Court of Criminal Appeals received 13 appeals in death-penalty cases. The Courts of Appeals received 4,926 appeals in other criminal cases, and in 1,520 of those appeals the Court of Criminal Appeals was asked to grant further review. The court granted review in 85 of them. After deciding each appeal, the court delivers a written opinion that explains the reason for its decision.

The court also has sole authority to grant the writ of habeas corpus to a person who has been convicted of a felony (which is a crime that is punishable by death or by imprisonment in the Department of Criminal Justice). In the 2010 fiscal year, the court received 4,275 habeas-corpus petitions and 54 death penalty habeas-corpus petitions."[1] The appeals and habeas-corpus petitions give the Court of Criminal Appeals the heaviest caseload of any appellate court in the United States.

Texas Court Criminal Appeals Processing Time FY2010.png


During the 2007 fiscal year, the court received 5,039 appeals in criminal cases, and in 1,532 of these cases, the Court of Criminal Appeals were asked to grant further review. The court granted review for 149 of these. The court has the sole authority to hear cases of habeas corpus to those convicted of felonies. In the same year, the court received 5,489 petitions and 62 death penalty habeas corpus petitions.[7]



Place 3
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
BennettMark Bennett (Texas) NoLibertarian3.6%   DefeatedD
RichardsonBert RichardsonApprovedANoRepublican60.4%ApprovedA59.8%   ApprovedA
WaltherBarbara Walther NoRepublican39.6% 
GranbergJohn Granberg NoDemocratic100%ApprovedA36.5%   DefeatedD
Place 4
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
Sanders-CastroJudith Sanders-Castro NoGreen10.4%   DefeatedD
YearyKevin Patrick YearyApprovedANoRepublican54.7%ApprovedA76.2%   ApprovedA
WoodJani Jo Wood NoRepublican17.4% 
DavisRichard Dean Davis NoRepublican28.0% 
ParkerQuanah Parker NoLibertarian13.3%   DefeatedD
Place 9
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
AltgeltGeorge Joseph Altgelt NoGreen8.6%   DefeatedD
NewellDavid NewellApprovedANoRepublican52.3%ApprovedA78.3%   ApprovedA
KirkendallWilliam Kirkendall NoRepublican47.7% 
StrangeWilliam Bryan Strange NoLibertarian13.1%   DefeatedD

(See also Texas judicial elections, 2014)


Judicial conduct

The Texas Code of Judicial Conduct consists of five main sections:

  1. Upholding the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary
  2. Avoiding Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge’s Activities
  3. Performing the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently
  4. Conducting the Judge's Extra-Judicial Activities to Minimize the Risk of Conflict with Judicial Obligations
  5. Refraining from Inappropriate Political Activity[8][9]

You can read the code in full here.

Removal of justices

A judge may be removed by any one of four methods in the state:

  • The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct may investigate allegations of misconduct. The results of the investigation determine whether a judge must face prosecution for misconduct. The commission makes recommendations to the Texas Supreme Court. The court appoints a review tribunal from court of appeals judges. The judges review the commission's recommendations and determine whether to follow their recommendations.
  • The Texas House can impeach a judge and the judge may be removed by two-thirds vote in the senate.

Notable cases


The Texas Constitution of 1876 alleviated the heavy civil caseload of the Supreme Court of Texas. Article V of the constitution established a three judge court of appeals to hear all appellate criminal cases. In 1891, Texas voters approved an amendment to keep the Supreme Court and established the Court of Civil Appeals. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was the state's highest criminal court, and its three judges were elected to six-year terms. In 1978, a constitutional amendment increased the size of the Court of Criminal Appeals to nine judges.[12]

Former justices

See also

External links