List of Judges
28th District Court: Nanette Hasette
94th District Court: Bobby Galvan
105th District Court: Jack W. Pulcher
117th District Court: Sandra Watts
148th District Court: Guy Williams
214th District Court: Inna Klein
319th District Court: David Stith
347th District Court: Missy Medary
Description of Office
District courts are the primary trial courts in Texas. The Constitution of the Republic provided for not less than three or more than eight district courts, each having a judge elected by a joint ballot of both houses of the Legislature for a term of four years. Most constitutions of the state continued the district courts but provided that the judges were to be elected by the qualified voters. (The exceptions were the Constitutions of 1845 and 1861 which provided for the appointment of judges by the Governor with confirmation by the Senate). All constitutions have provided that the judges of these courts must be chosen from defined districts (as opposed to statewide election). In many locations, the geographical jurisdiction of two or more district courts is overlapping. As of September 1, 2014, there were 458 district courts in Texas.
District courts are courts of general jurisdiction. Article V, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution extends a district court’s potential jurisdiction to “all actions” but makes such jurisdiction relative by excluding any matters in which exclusive, appellate, or original jurisdiction is conferred by law upon some other court. For this reason, while one can speak of the “general” jurisdiction of a district court, the actual jurisdiction of any specific court will always be limited by the constitutional or statutory provisions that confer exclusive, original, or appellate jurisdiction on other courts serving the same county or counties.
With this caveat, it can be said that district courts generally have the following jurisdiction:
- Original jurisdiction in all criminal cases of the grade of felony and misdemeanors involving official misconduct
- Cases of divorce
- Suits for title to land or enforcement of liens on land
- Contested elections
- Suits for slander or defamation
- Suits on behalf of the State for penalties, forfeitures and escheat
Most district courts exercise criminal and civil jurisdiction, but in the metropolitan areas there is a tendency for the courts to specialize in civil, criminal, juvenile or family law matters. Thirteen district courts are designated “criminal district courts” but have general jurisdiction. A limited number of district courts also exercise the subject-matter jurisdiction normally exercised by county courts.
The district courts also have jurisdiction in civil matters with a minimum monetary limit but no maximum limit. The amount of the lower limit has for many years been the subject of controversy, with differing opinions from the courts of appeal. House Bill 79 from the 82nd Legislature, 1st Called Session (2011) included a provision in Section 24.007(b) of the Government Code which was intended to resolve the dispute and to set the minimum jurisdiction of district courts at $500. However, there is still a potential conflict between Article V, Section 8 of the Texas Constitution (which gives the district courts jurisdiction of all actions…except in cases where exclusive) and the amendment. Therefore, there are still differing opinions as to whether the minimum monetary jurisdiction of the district courts is $200.01 or $500. In counties having statutory county courts, the district courts generally have exclusive jurisdiction in civil cases where the amount in controversy is $200,000 or more, and concurrent jurisdiction with the statutory county courts in cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $500 but is less than $200,000.
The district courts may also hear contested matters in probate cases and have general supervisory control over commissioners courts. In addition, district courts have the power to issue writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, injunction, certiorari, sequestration, attachment, garnishment, and all writs necessary to enforce their jurisdiction. Appeals from judgments of the district courts are to the courts of appeals (except appeals of death sentences).
A 1985 constitutional amendment established the Judicial Districts Board to reapportion Texas judicial districts, subject to legislative approval. The same amendment also allows for more than one judge per judicial district.