The basic structure of the present court system of Texas was established by an 1891 amendment to the Texas Constitution of 1876. The amendment established the Supreme Court as the highest state appellate court for civil matters, and the Court of Criminal Appeals as the highest state appellate court in criminal matters. The amendment also established courts of appeals that exercise intermediate appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases.
District courts are the state trial courts of general jurisdiction. The geographical area served by each district court is established by the specific statute creating the court.
In addition to these state courts, the Texas Constitution provides for a county court in each county, presided over by the county judge. The county judge also serves as head of the county commissioners court, the governing body of the county. To aid the constitutional county court with its judicial functions, the Legislature has established statutory county courts, generally designated as county courts at law or statutory probate courts, in the more populous counties.
The Texas Constitution also authorizes not less than one nor more than 16 justices of the peace in each county. The justice courts generally have exclusive jurisdiction with the county courts when the amount in controversy exceeds $200 but does not exceed $10,000. They also have jurisdiction in misdemeanor cases where punishment upon conviction may be by fine only.
By statute, the Legislature has created municipal courts in each incorporated city in the state. These courts have original jurisdiction over violations of municipal ordinances and concurrent jurisdiction with the justice courts over misdemeanor state law violations, limited to the geographical confines of the municipality. Municipal courts also have civil jurisdiction limited to a few specific types of cases.