In 2017, the LEAP Ambassadors were fortunate enough to host the Texas Supreme Court, which came to SHSU and conducted two oral arguments, while also agreeing to a lunch, dinner, and Q&A period with students, faculty, administrators, and local attorneys.
It was a highlight of our time at SHSU.
Two years later, we received a pleasant surprise when, after we posted on social media that we were in Austin, Justice Jeff Boyd contacted us and offered to “repay our hospitality” by offering us a tour of the Texas Supreme Court. It was an offer that was equal parts surprise and generous, but if there’s anything we know, it’s when to say, “Yes!”
The building is located right next to the Capitol and is actually connected by the underground expansion of the Capitol, so following the inauguration, it was convenient for us to walk over and enjoy this unique opportunity.
We began in the court room that is used to hear oral arguments.
The room is surrounded by portraits of former justices–but only those justices unlikely to hear cases before the court. A former justice who is still a practicing attorney, for example, would be perceived to have an unfair advantage if his or her portrait was hanging in the courtroom.
Interestingly, we saw a portrait of Justice Bob Gammage, who taught at SHSU. (Professor John Domino, a POLS Faculty at SHSU, is currently finishing a book about Gammage and his legal career in Texas.)
Justice Boyd then explained the process of how cases reach the level of the Texas Supreme Court and what type of cases they hear. Furthermore, Texas is unusual because it has a bifurcated top court, with the Texas Supreme Court hearing civil cases and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals hearing criminal cases.
Justice Boyd was particularly insightful when discussing the informal processes of the court, such as when he explained the importance of seniority, which impacts where the justices sit at the bench to how their robes are arranged in the robing room.
Speaking of which, Justice Boyd then took us into the robe room where the justices put on their robes and relax in-between hearing cases.
Justice Boyd even showed us the room where the justices meet once a month for a conference where they discuss their cases.
It was a such an amazing opportunity to watch a Texas Inauguration and then have a Justice of the Texas Supreme Court give us a personal tour. Although the Ambassadors have taken many trips to Austin, this one was particularly special and memorable.