The basic structure of the present court system was established by an 1891 constitutional amendment. The amendment established the Supreme Court as the highest state appellate court for civil matters, and the Court of Criminal Appeals, which makes the final determination in criminal matters. District courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction. The geographical area served by each district court is established by specific statute and determined by population of the area.

In addition to these state courts, the Texas Constitution provides for a county court, presided over by the county judge. The county judge also serves as head of the county commissioners court, the governing body of the county. To aid the constitutional county court with its judicial functions, the Legislature has established statutory county courts, designated as county courts at law. Smith County has three county courts at law.

District Courts – Jurisdiction –
State Trial Courts of General and Special Jurisdiction
County-Level Courts – County Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction –

  • County Court –

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  • County Courts at Law –
    All civil, criminal, original and appellate actions prescribed by law for constitutional county courts
    In addition, jurisdiction over civil matters up to $250,000 or higher
    County Court at Law #3
    Original Jurisdiction in civil actions
    Justice Courts – Local Trial Courts –
    Civil actions of not more than $20,000
    Small claims
    Criminal misdemeanors punishable by fine only traffic courts
    Municipal Courts – Local Trial Courts –
    Criminal misdemeanor punishable by fine only
    Exclusive original jurisdiction over municipal ordinance criminal cases
    Limited civil jurisdiction

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