Jurisdiction, Types of Law, and the Selection of Judges

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the different types of jurisdiction
  • Discuss the different types of law
  • Describe the selection process, and qualifications, for Texas Judges

Types of Jurisdictions

Every court system has jurisdiction over certain cases, from enforcing traffic laws to hearing capital murder charges. There are four types of jurisdictions:

  1. Original Jurisdiction– the court that gets to hear the case first. For example, Municipal courts typically have original jurisdiction over traffic offenses the occur within city limits.
  2. Appellate Jurisdiction– the power for a higher court to review a lower court’s decision. For example, the Texas Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction over the District Courts (See the hierarchy of Texas Court Structure in this Unit).
  3. Exclusive Jurisdiction– only that court can hear a specific case. For example, only the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Court can hear appeals for death penalty sentences.
  4. Concurrent Jurisdiction– multiple courts share the jurisdiction. For example, a civil dispute over $200 can be heard in a Texas District Court or Texas County Court.

Types of Law

There are two basic types of law in any legal system- Civil and Criminal. Below is a table differentiating the two:

There are two types of crime: misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are considered minor crimes, and felonies are defined as major crimes.[1]

Offense Punishment Court
Capital Murder (Capital Felony)– Examples: Murder of a law enforcement official, prison guard, or firefighter on duty; commits murder with other types of felonies; murder for hire; mass murder; murder of someone under the age of 10  Life or Death Penalty District Court
First degree felony– Examples: Murder; theft of property worth over $200,000 5-99 years in prison, maximum fine of $10,000 District Court
Second degree felony– Examples: Manslaughter; theft of property worth between $100,000-200,000 2-20 years in prison, maximum fine of $10,000  District Court
Third degree felony– Examples: Impersonating someone online; theft of property worth $20,000-100,000 2-10  years in prison, maximum fine of $10,000 District Court
State jail felony– Examples: Possession of 4 ounces to 1lb of marijuana; theft of property worth $15,000-20,000  180 days-2 years on prison, maximum fine of $10,000  District Court
Class A Misdemeanor– Examples: Resisting arrests; theft of property worth $500-1,500  1 year in prison, maximum fine of $4,000 County Court
Class B Misdemeanor– Examples: Terroristic threat; theft of property worth $20-500 180 days in prison, maximum fine of $2,000 County Court
Class C Misdemeanor– Examples: Sexting with someone 17 or younger; theft of property worth less than $20 Maximum fine $500 Justice of the Peace or Municipal Courts


Selection of Judges

There are three basic methods used to select judges in the United States: appointment, election, and merit selection. Merit selection is also referred to as the Missouri Plan, named after the first state that adopted the method. Texas elects judges (except at some of the municipal levels) in a partisan election, as it does with other government offices, and the table below depicts the specifics for each level of court.[2]

Selection and Qualification of Texas Judges