About Texas Judges

Qualifications to be a Judge in Texas

The basic qualifications for most of the judges in the state are established by the Constitution of the State of Texas. By those provisions, all appellate judges must have been licensed to practice law for at least ten years, be citizens of the United States and of Texas, and be at least 35 years old.

District judges must have been licensed to practice law in this state for at least four years, be residents of the judicial district for at least two years, and be citizens. Qualifications for county court at law and statutory probate court judges vary according to the statute creating the court.

All are required to be licensed to practice law; most are required to be county residents and have experience as practicing attorneys.

Judges of the constitutional county courts must be “well informed in the law of the State” but are not required to be lawyers. Most of the 254 county judges are not licensed to practice law.

There are no constitutional or statutory qualifications to serve as a justice of the peace, and very few are lawyers. While judges of municipal courts of record must be attorneys, no statutory qualifications are required of other municipal judges, most of whom are not lawyers.

Selection and Terms

All judges, with the exception of most municipal judges, are elected in partisan elections by the qualified voters of the geographical areas they serve. Most municipal judges are appointed by the governing body of the municipality, although a few are elected in non-partisan elections. Appellate judges serve six-year terms. District judges, county-level judges, and justices of the peace serve four-year terms. Municipal judges usually serve two-year terms.

Judicial vacancies in appellate and district courts are filled by appointment of the Governor. Vacancies in county-level and justice courts are filled by commissioners courts. Vacancies in municipal courts are filled by the mayor or governing body of the city in nonpartisan elections.

Judicial Conduct & Discipline

All persons who serve as judges in this State must be knowledgeable in the law, and dispense justice in a fair and impartial manner. To aid in the attainment of these goals, the Legislature has provided for the mandatory continuing professional education of judges, and the Supreme Court has promulgated the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Code establishes professional standards which the State Constitution makes mandatory for judges.

In addition, the Constitution establishes a special commission to consider citizen complaints concerning the conduct of judges which is clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of their duties, or which casts public discredit upon the judiciary or the administration of justice. This Commission on Judicial Conduct may reprimand or censure a judge, or recommend to a review tribunal that the judge be removed from office. The Commission may also suspend from office judges who are indicted for felony offenses or charged with official misconduct. It does not, however, review the legal results of a trial as this is within the jurisdiction of the appellate courts.

Judicial Administration

The Supreme Court of Texas has general responsibility for the efficient administration of the Texas judicial system and the authority to make rules of administration applicable to the courts. Aiding the Supreme Court in carrying out its administrative duties is the state Office of Court Administration, which operates under the direction of the Chief
Justice.

The Supreme Court and the Legislature receive recommendations on long-range planning and improvements in the administration of justice from the Texas Judicial Council, a 22-member advisory board composed of appointees of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches of government.

The state Office of Court Administration, established in 1977, provides administrative support and technical assistance to all of the courts in the State. It publishes the Annual Report on the Texas Judicial System and provides the Legislature with requested information on the functioning of the judicial system. The office also supports the research and operations of the Judicial Committee on Information Technology, a 15-member board charged with developing and overseeing the design and implementation of a coordinated statewide computer communication network and comprehensive justice information system.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Presiding Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Chief Justices of each of the 14 Courts of Appeals, and the judges of each of the trial courts are generally responsible for the administration of their respective courts.

To aid in the administration of justice in the trial courts, the State is divided into nine Administrative Judicial Regions. The Governor designates one of the active or retired district judges residing in each Administrative Judicial Region as the Presiding Judge. The Presiding Judge of an Administrative Judicial Region may temporarily assign an active or retired judge to serve on a district court or county court at law in the Administrative Judicial Region whenever the need arises.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court convenes periodic conferences of the nine Presiding Judges to ensure the efficient administration of justice in the trial courts of the State.

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