In 1835, the Provisional Government of Texas authorized the selection of two judges for each municipality, one to be designated the First Judge and the other the Second Judge, the later to serve only during the absence of the First Judge. They were nominated by the Council of the Provisional Government and appointed by the Provisional Governor. They had jurisdiction over all crimes and misdemeanors recognized by the common law. Proceedings followed common law practices except in cases of sequestration, attachment or arrest where the civil code and procedures of Louisiana were followed. The judge of the municipality was also to serve as its notary public.
These temporary judges served from November 28, 1835 until the organization of the courts of the Republic of Texas in December 1836 and January 1837.
The judges who served the Municipality of Viesca (later renamed Milam) were:
|Joseph L. Hood||First Judge|
|John Marlin||Second Judge|
The Constitution of 1836 stipulated that the common law of England, as practiced and understood in Texas at that time, was in full force in the Republic. In September 1836, the Constitution of the Republic of Texas was ratified and the following month Congress met and began the task of organizing a government for the new nation.
By the middle of December 1836, the legislation to create the court system of the Republic of Texas had been approved by President Sam Houston. It was headed by a Supreme Court, but it was also divided into Judicial Districts with each having a District Court.
Each District Court was presided over by a District Judge elected by joint ballot of both houses of the Texas Congress to a 4-year term. After his appointment, the District Judge was required to reside in his district. He was also enjoined to hold court twice each year in each of the counties composing his district.
In 1837, the salaries of the District Judges were set at $3,000 per year, but they were reduced to $1,750 per year in 1842 and to $1,500 per year in 1844.
From 1836 through 1846, Milam County was located in the Third District Court. The District Judges to serve during this time-period were:
|Robert McAplin Williamson||1836-1839|
|John T. Mills||1839-1840|
|Robert Emmett Bledson Baylor||1841-1846|
In the first years of statehood, the justices of the Supreme Court and the district judges were nominated by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate, but in 1850 the constitution was amended to make the offices elective, and they have remained so (except under the Reconstruction Constitution of 1869).
The revival of the economy after Reconstruction increased the business of the courts, and the Supreme Court fell behind in its docket of civil and criminal appeals. To relieve it, the Constitution of 1876 established another appellate court of last resort-the Court of Appeals, which was given jurisdiction of appeals in criminal, probate, and county court cases.
The Supreme Court neither had nor desired jurisdiction to review the decisions of the Court of Appeals, which was the court of last resort for its classes of cases. The intent was to leave the Supreme Court free to decide the civil appeals from the district courts.
The Court of Appeals failed to rescue the Supreme Court, which continued to fall behind in its work. The second plan to relieve the Supreme Court was to establish an intermediate level of appeals courts for civil cases. This was done by constitutional amendment in 1891.
The new courts of civil appeals were given jurisdiction over most civil appeals from the district and county courts; further review by the Supreme Court was discretionary with that court. The system of intermediate appellate courts made it possible for the Supreme Court to regulate its docket by exercising its discretion to deny review of most appeals. Another advantage of the new courts was that the capacity of the civil appellate system could be expanded by the formation of more courts of civil appeals; originally three in number, the courts of civil appeals had increased to fourteen by 1980.
SOURCE: Lengert, Margaret Eleanor, The History of Milam County (1949) [unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Texas (Austin)] (on file with The Library of the University of Texas at Austin).
SOURCE: Allison, Dorothy, History of the Milam County Courthouses, 1822-1991, Cameron, TX: Milam County Historical Museum, 1991.
Created on 15 July 2004 and last revised on ________