For the first time ever, the Texas Supreme Court will hear cases in the Rio Grande Valley during an October visit.
The Court will hear cases Oct. 2 at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Oct. 3 at The University of Texas-Pan American. The UTPA courtroom session is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Student Union auditorium. The Court then will attend a reception with the Hidalgo County Bar Association, and some justices will attend an afternoon business law class before returning to Austin.
The justices will hear at UTPA two civil cases originating in the Valley. Each case is expected to be about 50 minutes long, with a 10-minute break between. No witnesses will testify, and the Court's decision generally will state a legal principle that may be unclear in Texas law and either send the case back for another proceeding or uphold the lower court's decision.
The Supreme Court of Texas is composed of a Chief Justice and eight justices. It has statewide, final appellate jurisdiction in all civil and juvenile cases. Most of the cases heard by this court are appeals from an appellate ruling by one of the 14 intermediate Courts of Appeals in Texas.
The current Chief Justice is Thomas R. Phillips, who has served in that role since 1988. The other justices are Wallace Jefferson, Harriet O'Neill, Deborah G. Hankinson, James A. Baker, Priscilla R. Owen, Craig T. Enoch, Nathan L. Hecht and Xavier Rodriguez. Rodriguez was appointed in late August by Gov. Rick Perry.
Until Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1997, the Court was prohibited from holding sessions outside Austin. The Valley trip is the seventh time it has conducted sessions away from Austin.
"We intend these trips to be educational," Phillips said. "Too few people understand how the legal system works and fewer can travel to Austin to see the system work at this level."
More information on the Texas Supreme Court is available on the Internet at www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us. For information on the October visit to the Rio Grande Valley, contact the UTPA Office of University Relations at 956/381-2741 or Osler McCarthy of the Texas Supreme Court at 512/463-1441.