Instant Access to State, County and Municipal Records
How do Texas Courts work?
The top authority in criminal matters in Texas is the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Supreme Court of Texas is the top tier in terms of judicial authority for civil matters. The majority of cases in Texas start off in either the superior or trial courts. If one of the parties involved in a trial at this level wishes to review the decision made, the next level of authority is the Courts of Appeals. Supreme court justices currently serve for ten years, district court judges for eight and county court judges for four.
There are 254 different counties in Texas and 234 courthouses over the age of 50 years still stand across the state. Texas actually has more historic courthouses than any other US state.
Civil Court and Small Claims
In Texas, there are a number of ways in which small claims and civil cases operate differently. Civil cases are those in which the petitioner is looking for more than $250,000. They can also include non-monetary disputes over such things as property, name changes, and restraining orders. Small claims court handles cases in which the petitioner is looking for an amount under $10,000, and are not using counsel representation. These types of cases can be anything from a friend refusing to repay a loan to warranty issues. Small claims court also has the power to order a defendant to do something, such as pay an amount of money owed.
Appeals and court limits
Only the sued party in small claims court can appeal the decision made. However, in civil cases, either party can appeal the ultimate decision. Neither party in small claims court can have their respective lawyer file papers or accompany them in court. They may do so if they have appealed. In civil cases, lawyers may file said papers and join their client in the courtroom. It costs between $30 and $100 per claim for filing fees in small claims court. Civil claims can cost anything between $180 and $320. Small claims court does not allow pretrial discovery, while it is allowed in civil cases. With regards to timescales, the cases for small claims must be completed 30-70 days after the complaint, with civil cases allowing up to 120 days.
Why are court records public?
The public is allowed to access information held by the government thanks to a series of laws within the Texas Public Information Act. The act is actually a series of legislative acts, included in the Texas General code under Title 5, Subchapter A, Subtitle 552. This links closely to the US Freedom of Information Act, guaranteeing the right and opportunity for all to access records and documents held by agencies of the government.
This legislature states that “access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state,” and “access to government and court records, in particular, has been deemed a fundamental interest in citizenship.” It also says that “maximum disclosure of the conduct of governmental operations [is] to be promoted by the act,” and it is “intended to safeguard the accountability of government to the public.”
Interested parties can access records offline using the following address:
1100 W 49th St.
Austin, TX 78756
Or online at: www.txcourts.gov