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Overview of the Texas Court System

Texas has one of the most complex court systems in the nation, but seeing it as a tiered structure can make it easier to understand.

The court system has five levels.

At the lowest level are municipal courts and justice of the peace courts. Municipal courts handle primarily criminal cases that are misdemeanors or involve local ordinances. They also have limited civil jurisdiction. Justice of the peace courts also handle criminal misdemeanors and have jurisdiction over small claims cases and civil actions involving amounts of less than $10,000.

County-level courts, which make up the second level, have limited jurisdiction in misdemeanor and juvenile cases, some civil cases, and probate matters. County-level courts also hear appeals from the lower courts.

The middle tier is made of the district courts, which handle civil cases of $200,000 or more, felony trials, and juvenile matters.

The fourth level is the Court of Appeals. The 14 regional Courts of Appeal hear appeals from the trial courts in their districts.

The top tier contains two appeals courts, a characteristic shared by neighboring Oklahoma. The Court of Criminal Appeals has final jurisdiction in all criminal cases, and the Supreme Court of Texas hears appeals in civil and juvenile cases.

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