Texas Supreme Court:
An Inventory of Supreme Court Records at the Texas State Archives
|Organization||History||Scope and Contents||Restrictions||Related Materials|
Creator: Texas. Supreme Court.
Title: Supreme Court records
Abstract: The Texas Supreme Court has final appellate jurisdiction in most civil and juvenile cases. It also has the authority to conduct proceedings for the removal or involuntary retirement of state judges; supervises State Bar operations; promulgates rules and regulations for the discipline, supervision, and disbarment of lawyers; and has supervisory and administrative control over the judicial branch. The records consist of case files, applications, opinions, dockets, indexes, registers, and minutes covering the period 1840-2004. Also present are the records of the Texas Commission of Appeals, consisting of opinions, dockets, and minutes, dating 1879-1892, 1918-1943. A portion of these materials have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.
Quantity: 14,036.5 cubic ft.
Location: Please note that the A, B, C, D, and 94 through 04 case files (except misfiles and oversize items) are stored at the State Records Center. Because of the possibility that portions of these records fall under the Public Information Act exceptions, these records must be reviewed by an archivist before they can be accessed for research. Records requested before 10:00 a.m. will usually be available for review by an archivist by 4:00 p.m. the same day. Records requested after 10:00 a.m. and before 3:00 p.m. will usually be available for review by an archivist by noon the next day. See the “Restrictions on Access” statement in this document for further information.
Language: These materials are written predominately in English with scattered Spanish throughout.
Repository: Texas State Archives
Sponsor: This EAD finding aid was created in part with funds provided by the Texas Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Board for the Texas Archival Resources Online project.
Other Formats for the Records
Orders and opinions of the Supreme Court are available on the Texas Judicial Branch website from October 1997 to present.
The M case files direct and reverse index and 1890s case files direct and reverse index card files described in the Indexes and registers series; the Supreme Court dockets (circuit court period) described in the Dockets series; and a portion of the M case files described in the Case files series of this finding aid have been digitized and are part of the Texas Digital Archive.
A description of the original records referenced in this finding aid, including those not digitized, is available at https://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/tslac/20169/tsl-20169.html.
Organization of the Records
These records are organized into seven series and fourteen subseries: (Only those series with digitized records are hyperlinked)
- Minutes, 1841-1943, 21.78 cubic ft.
- Supreme Court minutes, 1841-1943, 19.33 cubic ft.
- Commission of Appeals minutes, 1879-1892, 1918-1943, 2.45 cubic ft.
- Indexes and registers, 1840-1995, 25.43 cubic ft.
- Dockets, 1840-1980, 64.65 cubic ft.
- Supreme Court dockets (circuit court period), 1840-1892, 22.22 cubic ft.
- Supreme Court dockets, 1892-1980, 40.17 cubic ft.
- Commission of Appeals dockets, 1879-1892, 1918-1943, 2.26 cubic ft.
- Opinions, 1840-1949, 31.22 cubic ft.
- Supreme Court opinions, 1840-1949, 22.61 cubic ft.
- Commission of Appeals opinions, 1881-1885, 1888-1892, 1922-1943, 8.61 cubic ft.
- Rejected applications, 1892-1943, 524.17 cubic ft.
- Overruled applications for writs of mandamus and habeas corpus, 1901-1943, 26 cubic ft.
- Case files, 1840-2004, 13,343.25 cubic ft.
- M case files, about 1840-1892, 680.08 cubic ft.
- No prefix case files, 1893-1943, 1,644.17 cubic ft.
- A case files, 1944-1966, 1,934.25 cubic ft.
- B case files, 1967-1980, 1,526.75 cubic ft.
- C case files, 1981-1990, 2,056 cubic ft.
- D case files, 1991-1993, 1,505 cubic ft.
- 94 through 04 case files, 1994-2004, 3,997 cubic ft.
The Supreme Court was created in 1836 by the Constitution of the Republic of Texas (Article IV, adopted March 17, 1836) with unlimited and conclusive appellate jurisdiction. Congress established the court by an act approved December 15, 1836. This court consisted of the chief justice, elected jointly by both houses of Congress, and the elected judges of the district courts in the state. The Supreme Court had jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases to hear and determine all manner of pleas, complaints, motions, causes, and controversies brought before it by any lower court, but no appeal could be determined until the lower court had made a final judgment or decree, except in particular cases as provided by law. A clerk appointed by the court recorded all the actions of the court and was also charged with preserving the records and transcripts of the court. Following the move to statehood, the First Legislature of the State of Texas organized a Supreme Court (Act of May 12, 1846), to consist of a chief justice and two associate justices appointed to six-year terms by the governor with the consent of the senate.
The terms of the court changed frequently during the 19th century. Initially, the court met annually at the seat of government. Legislation passed on January 22, 1842, established another annual term to be held at Nacogdoches, but an act passed on February 3, 1842, directed the court to hold its annual term at Washington-on-the-Brazos. Further legislation in 1845 (February 3, 1845) directed the court to hold annual terms wherever Congress convened. The Act of May 12, 1846, directed the court to meet annually in Austin. Legislation passed in 1850 (3rd Legislature, Chapter XII, November 30, 1850) amended this act and directed the court to hold three terms a year in Austin, Tyler, and Galveston, with each term lasting about three months. The court continued to meet in this manner until 1892. Following legislation which reorganized the courts system in 1892, the Supreme Court once again met annually in Austin, which it continues to do. . . Click here to read more of the agency history
Scope and Contents of the Records
The Texas Supreme Court has final appellate jurisdiction in most civil and juvenile cases. It also has the authority to conduct proceedings for the removal or involuntary retirement of state judges; supervises State Bar operations; promulgates rules and regulations for the discipline, supervision, and disbarment of lawyers; and has supervisory and administrative control over the judicial branch. The records consist of case files, applications, opinions, dockets, indexes, registers, and minutes covering the period 1840-2004. Also present are the records of the Texas Commission of Appeals, consisting of opinions, dockets, and minutes, dating 1879-1892, 1918-1943. The records document the actions of the justices but do not cover the more routine or administrative functions of the clerk or other aspects of the functioning of the judicial system.
The case files are the most voluminous series in the records. Case files presently held by the Texas State Archives are the M case files (1840-1892), No prefix case files (1892-1943), A case files (1944-1966), B case files (1967-1980), C case files (1981-1990), D case files (1991-1993), and 94 through 04 case files (1994-2004). As of 2017, the 05 and later series are held by the Supreme Court.
Restrictions and Requirements
Restrictions on Access
Case files may possibly contain documents sealed by the court, and are therefore excepted from public disclosure by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 76A. When a researcher requests a case, the file will be reviewed by an archivist in order to remove sealed documents. The researcher will be informed that sealed documents have been removed from the file, and it will then be up to the researcher to obtain permission from the original court to access the documents.
Case files may possibly also contain personal information of jurors and prospective jurors. According to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 35.29, information collected by the court or by a prosecuting attorney during the jury selection process about a person who serves as a juror, including the juror’s home address, home telephone number, social security number, driver’s license number, and other personal information, is confidential and may not be disclosed by the court, the prosecuting attorney, the defense counsel, or any court personnel except on application by a party in the trial or on application by a bona fide member of the news media acting in such capacity to the court in which the person is serving or did serve as a juror. On a showing of good cause, the court shall permit disclosure of the information sought. (Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 371, § 1, effective September 1, 1993). The Court of Criminal Appeals has verified that juror information is to be withheld from the public according to the statute cited above. Therefore, when a case is requested, an archivist will review the case to ascertain whether or not juror information is present. If such information is found, the researcher will be informed and the documents will be removed from the file. If an individual wishes to access juror information, they will have to obtain permission from the original court. Because the judiciary is not covered by the Texas Public Information Act, the Archives cannot estimate how long it will take the court to respond to a request.
Rarely, case files may possibly contain material not related to the case, such as attorney’s notes about another case. Before a researcher is granted access to a case, an archivist will review the files and remove all such materials. The researcher will be informed if materials are removed. If the researcher wishes to access the documents, the Archives will contact the court to determine the appropriate course of action on a case-by-case basis. Because the judiciary is not covered by the Texas Public Information Act, the Archives cannot estimate how long it will take the court to respond to a request.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
The following materials are offered as possible sources of further information on the agencies and subjects covered by the records. The listing is not exhaustive.
(Identify the item and cite the series), Texas Supreme Court records. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession numbers: 1983/056, 1984/013, 1985/030, 1985/103, 1988/134, 1989/160, 1991/154, 1996/010, 2008/126, 2008/127, 2008/132, 2008/162, 2009/062, 2009/114, 2010/116, 2010/132, 2010/133, 2010/134, 2010/135, 2011/036, 2011/278, 2011/435, 2012/029, 2012/038, 2012/093, 2012/130, 2012/135, 2012/148, 2014/143, 2015/040, 2015/085, 2015/132, 2015/137, 2015/173, 2016/146, 2016/150, 2016/154, 2016/157, 2016/158, 2016/159, 2016/160, 2017/002, and 2017/121
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Texas Supreme Court on November 22, 1982; September 6, 1983; November 1, 1984; April 15, 1985; June 19, 1989; May 10, 1991; November 24, 2008; March 14 and August 2, 2011; February 28, 2012; October 13, 2014; and January 23, 2015; by the Texas Historical Commission on May 4, 1988; by Dorothy Sloan on October 18, 1995; by Tammy Kubecka on April 28, 2005; and March 18, 2015; by Peter Luke on May 25, 2005; and November 27, 2011; by the Heritage Auction Galleries on December 19, 2007; by the Texas Attorney General’s Office on June 23, 2008; July 1, 2010; and September 2, 2016; by the Texas Attorney General’s Office from Heritage Auction Galleries on March 11, 2009; by Maria McPhail via Heritage Auction Galleries on March 29, 2010; by the Texas Attorney General’s Office from Early American History Auctions on October 2, 2009; by the Texas Attorney General’s Office from Danny Reich on August 2, 2010; by the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the Gettysburg Quartermaster on August 17, 2010; by Rolando Gallo on October 8, 2010; by Ed Hoffman on October 26, 2011; by RR Auction on November 14, 2011; by Sherry Evans on December 5, 2011; by Carl G. Horkowitz on March 23, 2012; by Mark E. Mitchell on August 1, 2014; by Richard D. Worthington on March 30, 2015; by James H. Twelmeyer on April 27, 2015; by Diana Faust via the Texas Supreme Court on May 12, 2016; by Ian Brabner on May 26, 2016; by James Cummins on June 2, 2016; by Jared Gendron on June 13, 2016; and by Tyler Ribitzki via the Texas Attorney General’s Office on June 2, 2017.
Processed by Paul Beck, date unknown
Revised by Laura Saegert, March 1995
Corrections and further encoding to TARO project standard by Laura Saegert, March 2001
Additions made to case files to reflect transfer of records to the State Records Center by Laura Saegert, August and November, 2002, June 2003
Additions made to case files to reflect transfer of records to the State Records Center and finding aid split due to online file size limitations by Laura Saegert, April 2004
Restriction statements revised by Laura Saegert, September 2004
Box numbers added to reflect the rehousing of case files, subgroups and series restructured, finding aid made DACS compliant, and overall finding aid split due to online file size limitations by Laura Saegert, June 2008
Additions made to M case files by Laura Saegert, March 2009
Updates made for DACS compliance, new accessions of case files incorporated, changes made to the M case file box inventory, and indexes added by Caitlin Burhans, August 2017