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Reading is difficult. As a writer, I help the reader every way I can think of. As a reader, I work hard not to miss the big things in the middle of the road.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Strange State Appellate Court System of Houston, Texas

In Texas, not counting municipal courts or justice-of-the-peace courts, there are state trial courts, intermediate courts of appeal, and highest appellate courts. The highest courts are the Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals, which have already been discussed here. Of the fourteen intermediate courts of appeals, two of them- the First Court of  Appeals and the Fourteenth are in the same place, Houston, and cover the same geographical area:  Austin County, Brazoria County, Chambers County, Colorado County, Fort Bend County, Grimes County, Harris County, Waller County and Washington County. They are presently the only ones which cover any common territory. The Woodlands and Conroe are in Montgomery County which in the Ninth Supreme Judicial District which court meets in Beaumont. Cases are alternated between the First and Fourteenth Court of Appeals. In theory, this could lead to a trial court's being bound by conflicting authority as between the two courts.
I also think that this Houston problem is one of the reasons why notices of appeal in Texas are filed in the trial courts. This allows trial court staff to figure out whether an appeal should go to the First Court or the Fourteenth.
For a time in the history of Texas, Galveston was the most important city, and the First Court of Appeals was established there. Later, when Houston grew so much, it was given the Fourteenth Court and both courts have sat in the same buildings in Houston since then. Formerly in the same downtown Houston building as South Texas College of Law, now they share the beautiful old domed Harris County courthouse.
Another interesting artifact of that time is the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. Galveston gets pride of place because the archdiocese started there, and it is one of the very few religious provinces with a pair of co-cathedrals: one in Galveston and the main one in Houston.

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