Exploring Austin: The Texas Supreme Court

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.  Texas Supreme Court, LEAP Ambassadors, SHSU, LEAP Center, Center for Law Engagement And Politics

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!”

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

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.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

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.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

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.)

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

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.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

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.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

Justice Boyd even showed us the room where the justices meet once a month for a conference where they discuss their cases.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

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.

SHSU, LEAP Center, LEAP Ambassasors, Texas Supreme Court, TXSC, Justice Jeff Boyd

Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to news stories, having contributed more than 50 pieces in the past year. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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