JUDICIAL BRANCH

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Introduction. Should the government cover the cost of medically necessary abortions for low-income women?The state of Texas chose not to include abortion services in its Medicaid programs and fund them with state money.Medicaid is a federal program designed to provide health insurance coverage to

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JUDICIAL BRANCH

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1. JUDICIAL BRANCH

2. Introduction Should the government cover the cost of medically necessary abortions for low-income women? The state of Texas chose not to include abortion services in its Medicaid programs and fund them with state money. Medicaid is a federal program designed to provide health insurance coverage to poor people, the disabled, and elderly Americans who are impoverished. Abortion rights advocates filed suit in Texas court against the state’s refusal to cover medically necessary abortions in its Medicaid program, charging that the policy amounted to illegal sex discrimination. The Texas Supreme Court rejected the argument, illustrating the important role of the Texas courts in the policymaking process.

3. Types of Legal Disputes Criminal Cases A criminal case is a legal dispute dealing with an alleged violation of a penal law. Parties Criminal defendant is the party charged with the criminal offense. Prosecutor is the attorney who tries a criminal case on behalf of the government. Burden of proof is the legal obligation of one party in a lawsuit to prove its position to a court. In a criminal case the prosecutor has the burden of proof to show the defendant’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

4. Types of Legal Disputes Criminal Cases (cont.) Classification of criminal offenses The penal code classifies criminal cases according to their severity. A misdemeanor offense constitutes a relatively minor criminal offense. The categories of misdemeanor offenses are Class A, B, or C Severity lies in descending order with regards to jail term and fine, Class A being the most serious

5. Types of Legal Disputes Criminal Cases (cont.) Classification of criminal offenses (cont.) A felony offense constitutes a serious criminal offense. Texas law divides felony offenses into five categories: Capital felony (death penalty) First-degree felony Second-degree felony Third-degree felony Fourth-degree (state jail) felony Severity lies in descending order with regards to jail term and fine

6. Types of Legal Disputes Civil Disputes A civil case is a legal dispute concerning a private conflict between two or more parties – individuals, corporations, or government. Parties Plaintiff is the party initiating the lawsuit. Civil defendant is the responding party. Burden of proof In a civil case the plaintiff has the burden of proof to prove the case “by a preponderance of the evidence.”

7. Types of Legal Disputes Civil Disputes (cont.) Types of civil disputes Property case is a civil suit over the ownership of real estate or personal possessions such as land, jewelry, or an automobile. Probate case is a civil suit dealing with the disposition of the property of a deceased individual. Domestic-relations case is a civil suit based on the law involving the relationships between husband and wife, and between parents and children. Contract case is a civil suit dealing with disputes over written or implied legal agreements. Tort case is a civil suit involving personal injury or damage to property.

8. Court Procedures The judicial proceeding is generally an adversary proceeding, which is a legal procedure in which each side presents evidence and arguments to bolster its position while rebutting evidence submitted by the other side. In practice most legal disputes are settled not by trials but through a process of negotiation and compromise between the parties. In civil cases the litigants may decide to resolve the dispute by settling out of court rather than going through the trial process. In criminal cases the defendant and the prosecutor may resolve the case through a plea bargain, which is a procedure in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty in order to receive punishment less than the maximum for the offense. Judicial proceedings are basically divided into trials and appeals.

9. Court Procedures Trials Formal examination of a civil or criminal action in accordance with the law before a single judge who has jurisdiction to hear the dispute Involve attorneys, witnesses, testimony, evidence, judges, and, occasionally, juries In general, the trial court is concerned with questions of facts and the law as it applies to those facts. The verdict determines in a civil case which party prevails in the lawsuit and in a criminal case whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty as charged.

10. Court Procedures Appeals An appeal is the taking of a case from a lower court to a higher court by the losing party in a lower court decision. As grounds for appeal, the losing party may allege that the lower court failed to follow proper procedures or incorrectly applied the law. Involve attorneys, briefs, written court records, and oral arguments In general, the appellate court is concerned with issues of law and procedure. The ruling of court may uphold, reverse, or modify the lower court decision.

11. The Texas Court System The Texas court system has three levels: Local Courts District Courts Appellate Courts

12. Local Courts Municipal Courts Created by the Texas legislature in every incorporated city Operate in 894 cities staffed by 1,342 judges Exercise criminal jurisdiction involving Class C misdemeanor offenses Exclusive jurisdiction involving violations of city ordinances, which are laws enacted by the governing body of a municipality Generally function as traffic courts Perform magistrate duties

13. Local Courts Justice of Peace (JP) Courts Texas constitution requires each county to operate at least 1 JP court. In 2004, 827 JP courts operated statewide. Exercise criminal jurisdiction involving Class C misdemeanor offenses Exercise civil jurisdiction handling civil cases involving amounts of money of $5,000 or less Function as small claims courts Perform magistrate duties

14. Local Courts County Courts Constitutional County Courts Created by Texas Constitution in each of the state’s 254 counties Exercise criminal jurisdiction involving Class A and B misdemeanor offenses Exercise civil jurisdiction handling civil cases involving amounts of money between $200 and $5,000 Handle appeals de novo (new trials) from Justice of Peace courts or municipal courts

15. Local Courts County Courts (cont.) Statutory County Courts Established by the Texas legislature Exercise criminal jurisdiction involving Class A and B misdemeanor offenses Exercise civil jurisdiction handling civil cases involving amounts of money up to $100,000 Handle appeals de novo (new trials) from Justice of Peace courts or municipal courts Statutory Probate Courts Established by the Texas legislature Possess limited jurisdiction involving probate cases

16. District Courts Texas has 424 district courts. Each court serves a specific geographic area, which may encompass several counties in the rural areas. Basic trial courts of the state Exercise criminal jurisdiction involving felony offenses Exercise civil jurisdiction handling civil cases involving amounts of money of $200 or more

17. Appellate Courts Handle appeals from the lower trial courts Review the trial court record, schedule oral arguments, study legal briefs, and render a decision/opinion The court may affirm the lower court decision, reverse it, modify it, or affirm part of the lower court ruling while reversing or modifying the rest. Types of opinions the court may issue: Majority opinion is the official written statement of the court that explains and justifies its ruling and serves as a guideline for lower courts. Dissenting opinion is the written judicial statement that disagrees with the decision of the court’s majority. Concurring opinion is a written judicial statement that agrees with the court’s ruling but disagrees with the reasoning of the majority.

18. Appellate Courts Three types of appellate courts: Courts of Appeals Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Texas Supreme Court Texas is one of two states with two supreme courts. Oklahoma is the other state with two supreme courts.

19. Appellate Courts Courts of Appeals Fourteen Courts of Appeals, each serving a specific geographic area Hear both civil and criminal appeals from the district and county courts Number of justices in each court varies from 3 to 13, depending on workload

20. Appellate Courts Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Highest appellate court for all criminal cases in the state Considers death penalty cases appealed directly from the district court Consists of one presiding justice and eight additional judges Decisions from this court may be appealed to the US Supreme Court when they involve matters of federal law or the US Constitution.

21. Appellate Courts Texas Supreme Court Highest appellate court for all civil and juvenile cases Consists of one chief justice and eight associate justices Decisions from this court may be appealed to US Supreme Court when they involve matters of federal law or the US Constitution. Administers the judicial branch of state government

22. Judges The Texas judicial system is staffed by a wide array of judges, who may possess different qualifications and who serve for different terms. The next slide summarizes the length of term, method of selection, and qualifications for the more than 3,100 judges who staff Texas courts. Municipal Judge Justice of Peace Judge Constitutional County Judge Statutory County Judge District Judge Appellate Judge

23. Texas Judges

24. Judicial Selection Except for some municipal judges who are appointed, Texas judges are chosen by partisan election, which is an election contest in which both the names of the candidates and their party affiliations appear on the ballot. Texas and eight other states elect judges on the partisan ballot. Despite the formality of an election system, a substantial number of the state’s district and appellate judges reach the bench through appointment.

25. Judicial Selection Is Justice for Sale in Texas? Critics of the judicial selection system based upon partisan elections believe that money plays too prominent a role in the process. Successful candidates for the Texas Supreme Court must raise and spend at least $1 million or more. Candidates for district judgeships may raise and spend more than $30,000 on their campaigns Critics of the Texas’s judicial system believe that campaign contributions undermine the integrity of the state’s court system.

26. Judicial Selection Do voters know the candidates? Critics also charge that many voters are unable to intelligently evaluate the qualifications of judicial candidates. Elections suggest that voters are often uninformed about the judicial candidates. Is the Texas judiciary representative of the state’s population? Critics of judicial selection also note that it has produced a judiciary that does not reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the state’s population. As the next slide shows, whites are overrepresented on the Texas bench; whereas, Latinos, African Americans, and people of other ethnicities are underrepresented.

27. Profile of Texas Judges Source: Office of Court Administration

28. Judicial Selection Is Partisan Politics Incompatible with Judicial Impartiality? Can a Republican defendant receive a fair trail from a Democratic judge or vice versa? As long as Texas elects judges on a partisan ballot, at least some individuals will be believe that party politics will determine the outcomes rather than the law and the constitution. Reforming the Judicial Selection Process Merit selection (or the Missouri Plan) is a method for selecting judges that combines gubernatorial appointment with voter approval in a retention election.

29. Judicial Selection Reforming the Judicial Selection Process (cont.) Former Chief Justice John Hill’s plan Selection of a 15-member nominating commission to recommend to the governor a list of three to five qualified persons from which the governor would fill a vacancy on the bench Approval of the governor’s choice by a two-thirds confirmation vote in the state Senate Retention election in the next general election in which the newly appointed judge must receive a majority of the vote Multiyear term before the judge is required to face another retention election

30. Judicial Selection Reforming the Judicial Selection Process (cont.) Supporters of the merit plan believe that it is a compromise between a system of appointing judges and the election method. Critics of the merit selection charge that it is an elitist system that produces a judiciary unrepresentative of the state’s population. Other proposed reforms District election is the method for choosing public officials in which a political subdivision, i.e., county, is divided into districts, with each district electing one official. Nonpartisan election is an election in which the candidates run without party labels. Other proposals suggest eliminating straight-ticket voting, which refers to citizens casting their ballots only for the candidates of one party.

31. Judicial Selection Judicial Retirement and Removal Departure from bench due to death, retirement, or loss of reelection Removal from office for incompetence or unethical conduct Disciplinary actions against a judge may entail an admonition, warning, reprimand, and recommendation to remove from office. Impeachment by majority vote in the state House and removal by a two-thirds vote of the Senate Visiting Judges Visiting judge system allows judges who have retired or been defeated for reelection to continue working as visiting judges. Visiting judges are especially in demand in the state’s rapidly growing urban areas.

32. Conclusion The judicial branch of Texas government plays an important role in the policymaking process in a broad range of policy areas. Litigants to the state’s court set the agenda by filing cases that raise policy issues; the judicial branch participates in policy formulation and adoption in selected policy areas; and the judicial branch plays a key role in implementing the state’s criminal and civil justice system. The stages of the policymaking process are: Agenda building Policy formulation and adoption Policy implementation and evaluation

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