Summary Review of Court Systems -


Structure of Civil Courts

Texas state courts are divided into justice courts, statutory county courts and district courts. Justice courts are largely small claims and eviction courts. Statutory county courts vary greatly by county, with some courts having jurisdiction limited to $250,000 and some with no upper jurisdictional limit, such that they are concurrent with district courts. District courts are what one would typically think of as the “main” courts for commercial disputes.

 Basis of Jurisdiction

The Texas Government Code provisions pertaining to jurisdiction of the various classes of courts in Texas are changing effective September 1, 2020. The information provided below is the main text is the amended information with the information regarding the prior version of the statute provided in parentheses.

Justice Courts—Tex. Gov’t Code §27.031 et seq.

  • Civil matters in which the amount in controversy is not more than $20,000 (pre 9/1/2020–$10,000 limit) and evictions.
  • Corporation need not be represented by an attorney.
  • Justices of the Peace are not required to be licensed lawyers.
  • Appeal is to County Court at Law where there is a de novo trial. Tex. R. Civ. P. 506.

Statutory County Court—County Courts at Law—Tex. Gov’t Code § 25.0001 et seq.

  • Concurrent jurisdiction with district courts in civil cases where the amount in controversy is $500 to $250,000 (pre-09/01/2020 $200,000)—but there are county specific statutes that raise the jurisdictional limit by county. Some counties like Dallas County and Ellis County have concurrent jurisdiction with the district courts over civil matters, regardless of the amount in controversy. Others, like Hidalgo County raise the jurisdiction to $750,000 or other amounts. The county specific provisions are governed by individual statutes in alphabetic order by county at Tex. Gov’t Code § 25.0041 et seq.
  • Appellate jurisdiction over cases from justice court.
  • Often a 6 member jury, but in cases over $250,000, a twelve member jury is required, unless parties agree otherwise. Tex. Gov’t Code § 25.0007.
  • Governed by the same rules of civil procedure as district court.
  • Appeal is to the intermediate appellate court for the region where the court is located.

District Court—Tex. Gov’t Code § 25.0001 et seq.

  • Civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $500. Tex. Gov’t Code § 24.007.
  • District court may hear and determine any cause cognizable by court of law or equity and may grant relief that could be granted by either courts of law or equity. Tex. Gov’t Code § 24.008.
  • Appeal is to the intermediate appellate court for the region where the court is located.

Commercial Courts

Texas does not have courts specifically assigned to commercial disputes. . In smaller counties, courts are largely courts of general jurisdiction, hearing criminal, civil and family law matters. In many larger counties, there are dedicated courts for civil, criminal and family law matters.


The state court system does not provide a mediation program, though most courts will require mediation before trial. Some courts will assign a mediator, but in most instances, the parties can agree to substitute a mediator of their choice. Some courts will run specific free mediation programs as a one day event to try to encourage settlements, but those vary between counties and are not geared toward complex commercial disputes.