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Texas Supreme Court

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

Don Willett  •  Paul Green  •  Nathan Hecht  •  Phil Johnson  •  Eva Guzman  •  Jeff Brown (Texas)  •  Debra Lehrmann  •  John Devine (Texas)  •  Jeffrey S. Boyd  •  

Seal of Texas.png
Courthouse of the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin

The Texas Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of Texas for civil matters. As the court of last resort, the Supreme Court hears appeals of decisions in civil cases from lower courts. Its decisions are not subject to review by any other court.

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

The Supreme Court was established in 1836 by the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. The Court consists of nine justices who meet in Austin, Texas in a building located on the state Capitol grounds.[1]


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Justice Don Willett2005-2018Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Paul Green2005-2016ElectedRepublican
Chief justice Nathan Hecht1989-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Phil Johnson2005-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Eva Guzman2009-2016Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Jeff Brown (Texas)2013-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice Debra Lehrmann2010-2016Gov. Rick PerryRepublican
Justice John Devine (Texas)2013-2018ElectedRepublican
Justice Jeffrey S. Boyd2012-2020Gov. Rick PerryRepublican

Chief justice

Nathan Hecht is the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas. He was appointed to the position by Governor Rick Perry on September 10, 2013. Justice Hecht is aligned with the Republican party.

Judicial selection

The nine justices are elected to staggered six-year terms in state-wide partisan elections. The nine seats are referred to by place numbers 1 through 9. The place numbers have no special meaning as all justices are elected state-wide, except that the Chief Justice position is considered "Place 1."

If a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement, who then must be confirmed by the Texas Senate. The justice serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Five of the current nine justices were originally appointed by Governor Rick Perry.

The chief justice runs as such in the general election and is selected by the state's voters.


In order to serve on the court, the following requirements must be met:

  • be a citizen of the United States;
  • hold state residency;
  • be licensed to practice law in Texas;
  • be older than 35 and younger than 74; and
  • have practiced law or been a judge for 10 years.[2]


The caseload of the Texas Supreme Court is determined by whether the court decides to grant a review of a judgment. The court has mandatory jurisdiction over writs of mandamus and habeas corpus.

"Much of the Supreme Court’s time is spent determining which petitions for review will be granted, as it must consider all petitions for review that are filed. However, the Court exercises some control over its caseload in deciding which petitions will be granted. The Court usually takes only those cases that present the most significant Texas legal issues in need of clarification.

The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction to answer questions of state law certified from a federal appellate court; has original jurisdiction to issue writs and to conduct proceedings for the involuntary retirement or removal of judges; and reviews cases involving attorney discipline upon appeal from the Board of Disciplinary Appeals of the State Bar of Texas."[3]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2014 1,211 1,217
2013 1,226 1,264
2012 1,224 1,209
2011 1,235 1,247
2010 1,337 1,339
2009 1,245 1,196
2008 1,229 1,321
2007 1,244 1,337


"The Supreme Court’s caseload can be broken down into three broad categories: determining whether to grant review of the final judgment of a court of appeals (i.e., to grant or not grant a petition for review); disposition of regular causes (i.e., granted petitions for review, accepted petitions for writs of mandamus or habeas corpus, certified questions, accepted parental notification appeals, and direct appeals); and disposition of numerous motions related to petitions and regular causes."[3]

Regular causes
"Regular causes" involve cases in which four or more of the justices have decided in conference that a petition for review, petition for writ of mandamus or habeas corpus, or parental notifi cation appeal should be reviewed. Regular causes also include direct appeals the court has agreed to review and questions of law certifi ed to it by a federal appellate court that the court has agreed to answer. Most regular causes are set for oral argument in open court and are reported in written opinions. However, a petition may be granted and an unsigned opinion (per curiam) issued without oral argument if at least six members of the court vote accordingly."

The chart below displays the number of regular causes added, disposed, and pending on the Supreme Court's docket from 1991 to 2010.

Texas Supreme Court regular causes 1991-2010.png

Petitions for review
Texas Supreme Court petitions for review 1991-2010.png

Texas Supreme Court case processing time.png


See also: Texas Supreme Court elections, 2014
Chief Justice
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
HechtNathan HechtApprovedAYesRepublican60.5%ApprovedA59.7%   ApprovedA
OxfordTom Oxford NoLibertarian3.1%   DefeatedD
MoodyWilliam Moody NoDemocratic100%ApprovedA37.2%   DefeatedD
TaltonRobert Talton NoRepublican39.5% 
Place 6
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
BrownJeff Brown (Texas)ApprovedAYesRepublican71.9%ApprovedA60.3%   ApprovedA
Joe Pool, Jr. No28.1% 
AshMark Ash NoLibertarian3.2%   DefeatedD
MeyersLawrence Meyers NoDemocratic100%ApprovedA36.5%   DefeatedD
Place 7
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
WaterburyCharles E. Waterbury NoGreen0.7%   DefeatedD
BenavidesGina Benavides NoDemocratic100%ApprovedA37.6%   DefeatedD
FultonDon Fulton NoLibertarian2.8%   DefeatedD
BoydJeffrey S. BoydApprovedAYesRepublican100%ApprovedA58.9%   ApprovedA
Place 8
CandidateIncumbencyPartyPrimary VoteElection Vote
KoelschRS Roberto Koelsch NoLibertarian12.0%   DefeatedD
JohnsonPhil JohnsonApprovedAYesRepublican64.0%ApprovedA78.8%   ApprovedA
McCallySharon McCally No36.0% 
ChisholmJim Chisholm NoGreen9.2%   DefeatedD

(See also Texas judicial elections, 2014)

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Texas was given a campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Texas received a score of 0.91. Based on the justices selected, Texas was the 3rd most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[6]


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[7][8]

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.
  • The Texas Supreme Court has the authority to remove a district court judge from office.[9]

Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Texas earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[10]

Notable decisions


The Republic of Texas' Constitution created a Supreme Court. The court consisted of a chief justice and associate justices, who were from the eight district courts of the state. These judges served with the chief justice from January 13, 1840, to December 29, 1845. At the end of 1845, Texas was admitted into the Union.[12]

Former justices

See also

External links