TITLE 2. JUDICIAL BRANCH
SUBTITLE A. COURTS
CHAPTER 21. GENERAL PROVISIONS
Sec. 21.001. INHERENT POWER AND DUTY OF COURTS. (a) A court has all powers necessary for the exercise of its jurisdiction and the enforcement of its lawful orders, including authority to issue the writs and orders necessary or proper in aid of its jurisdiction.
(b) A court shall require that proceedings be conducted with dignity and in an orderly and expeditious manner and control the proceedings so that justice is done.
(c) During a court proceeding a judge may not request that a person remove an item of religious apparel unless:
(1) a party in the proceeding objects to the wearing of the apparel; and
(2) the judge concludes that the wearing of the apparel will interfere with:
(A) the objecting party's right to a fair hearing; or
(B) the proper administration of justice; and
(3) no reasonable alternative exists under which the judge may:
(A) assure a fair hearing; and
(B) protect the fair administration of justice.
Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985. Amended by Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 54, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1997.
Sec. 21.002. CONTEMPT OF COURT. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (g), a court may punish for contempt.
(b) The punishment for contempt of a court other than a justice court or municipal court is a fine of not more than $500 or confinement in the county jail for not more than six months, or both such a fine and confinement in jail.
(c) The punishment for contempt of a justice court or municipal court is a fine of not more than $100 or confinement in the county or city jail for not more than three days, or both such a fine and confinement in jail.
(d) An officer of a court who is held in contempt by a trial court shall, on proper motion filed in the offended court, be released on his own personal recognizance pending a determination of his guilt or innocence. The presiding judge of the administrative judicial region in which the alleged contempt occurred shall assign a judge who is subject to assignment by the presiding judge other than the judge of the offended court to determine the guilt or innocence of the officer of the court.
(e) Except as provided by Subsection (h), this section does not affect a court's power to confine a contemner to compel the contemner to obey a court order.
(f) Article 42.033, Code of Criminal Procedure, and Chapter 157, Family Code, apply when a person is punished by confinement for contempt of court for disobedience of a court order to make periodic payments for the support of a child. Subsection (h) does not apply to that person.
(g) A court may not punish by contempt an employee or an agency or institution of this state for failure to initiate any program or to perform a statutory duty related to that program:
(1) if the legislature has not specifically and adequately funded the program; or
(2) until a reasonable time has passed to allow implementation of a program specifically and adequately funded by the legislature.
(h) Notwithstanding any other law, a person may not be confined for contempt of court longer than:
(1) 18 months, including three or more periods of confinement for contempt arising out of the same matter that equal a cumulative total of 18 months, if the confinement is for criminal contempt; or
(2) the lesser of 18 months or the period from the date of confinement to the date the person complies with the court order that was the basis of the finding of contempt, if the confinement is for civil contempt.
Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 2, Sec. 8.44(1), eff. Aug. 28, 1989; Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 560, Sec. 1, eff. June 14, 1989; Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 646, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 28, 1989; Acts 1989, 71st Leg., 1st C.S., ch. 25, Sec. 34, eff. Nov. 1, 1989; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 262, Sec. 87, eff. Jan. 1, 1996; Acts 1997, 75th Leg., ch. 165, Sec. 7.24, eff. Sept. 1, 1997; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1297, Sec. 71(4), eff. Sept. 1, 2001; Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 425 Sec. 1, eff. June 20, 2003.
Sec. 21.004. STATE OF JUDICIARY MESSAGE. (a) At a convenient time at the commencement of each regular session of the legislature, the chief justice of the supreme court shall deliver a written or oral state of the judiciary message evaluating the accessibility of the courts to the citizens of the state and the future directions and needs of the courts of the state.
(b) It is the intent of the legislature that the state of the judiciary message promote better understanding between the legislative and judicial branches of government and promote more efficient administration of justice in Texas.
Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 480, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985. Amended by Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 129, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.
Sec. 21.005. DISQUALIFICATION. A judge or a justice of the peace may not sit in a case if either of the parties is related to him by affinity or consanguinity within the third degree, as determined under Chapter 573.
Added by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 148, Sec. 2.01(a), eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Amended by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 561, Sec. 21, eff. Aug. 26, 1991; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 76, Sec. 5.95(28), eff. Sept. 1, 1995.
Sec. 21.006. JUDICIAL FUND. The judicial fund is created in a separate fund in the state treasury to be administered by the comptroller. The fund shall be used only for court-related purposes for the support of the judicial branch of this state.
Added by Acts 1986, 69th Leg., 2nd C.S., ch. 11, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 22, 1986.
Sec. 21.008. DISTRICT COURT SUPPORT ACCOUNT. (a) The district court support account of the judicial fund is created to be administered by the office of court administration as directed by the supreme court.
(b) The comptroller shall allocate to the district court support account such amounts from the judicial fund as may be designated in the General Appropriations Act.
(c) The district court support account may be used only for court-related purposes for the support of the district courts of this state to defray the salaries of support personnel and other expenses incurred in the operations of the courts, the necessary expenses of the administrative judicial regions, and for the administration of this section.
(d) The State Board of Regional Judges is created to administer the funds appropriated to this account. The board shall be composed of the nine regional administrative judges of the state, who shall have the authority to organize, elect officers, and make such rules as may be necessary for the proper administration of these accounts.
(e) Repealed by Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1312, Sec. 99(12), eff. September 1, 2013.
(f) Funds allocated for personnel may be used to pay in full or in part the salary of an employee, to supplement the salary of an existing employee, or to hire additional personnel.
(g) It is the purpose of this section to increase the funds available for the administration of justice in each county in this state and to provide funding to be used for court-related purposes for the support of the judicial branch of this state. Funds available from the judicial fund and its special account may be supplemented by local or federal funds and private or public grants. A county commissioners court may not reduce the amount of funds provided for these purposes because of the availability of funds from the judicial fund or the special account.
Added by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 674, Sec. 3.01, eff. Aug. 31, 1987. Amended by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 646, Sec. 2, eff. Aug. 28, 1989.
Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1312 (S.B. 59), Sec. 99(12), eff. September 1, 2013.
Acts 2019, 86th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1352 (S.B. 346), Sec. 4.07, eff. January 1, 2020.
Sec. 21.009. DEFINITIONS. In this title:
(1) "County court" means the court created in each county by Article V, Section 15, of the Texas Constitution.
(2) "Statutory county court" means a county court created by the legislature under Article V, Section 1, of the Texas Constitution, including county courts at law, county criminal courts, county criminal courts of appeals, and county civil courts at law, but does not include statutory probate courts as defined by Chapter 22, Estates Code.
(3) "County judge" means the judge of the county court.
(4) "Statutory probate court" has the meaning assigned by Chapter 22, Estates Code.
Added by Acts 1987, 70th Leg., ch. 148, Sec. 2.02, eff. Sept. 1, 1987. Renumbered from Sec. 21.008 by Acts 1989, 71st Leg., ch. 2, Sec. 16.01(18), eff. Aug. 28,1989. Amended by Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 394, Sec. 1, eff. Aug. 26, 1991; Acts 1991, 72nd Leg., ch. 746, Sec. 1, eff. Oct. 1, 1991; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 431, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1999.
Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 324 (S.B. 1488), Sec. 22.021, eff. September 1, 2017.
Sec. 21.010. FINANCIAL INTEREST IN PRIVATE CORRECTIONAL AND REHABILITATION FACILITIES PROHIBITED. (a) A justice or judge, as applicable, of the supreme court, the court of criminal appeals, a court of appeals, a district court, a county court, a county court at law, or a statutory probate court may not, on the date the person takes office as a justice or judge or while serving as a justice or judge, have a significant interest in a business entity that owns, manages, or operates:
(1) a community residential facility described by Section 508.119;
(2) a correctional or rehabilitation facility subject to Chapter 244, Local Government Code; or
(3) any other facility intended to accomplish a purpose or provide a service described by Section 508.119(a) to a person convicted of a misdemeanor or felony or found to have engaged in delinquent conduct who is housed in the facility:
(A) while serving a sentence of confinement following conviction of an offense or an adjudication of delinquent conduct; or
(B) as a condition of community supervision, probation, parole, or mandatory supervision.
(b) A justice or judge is considered to have a significant interest in a business entity described by Subsection (a) for purposes of this section if:
(1) the justice or judge owns any voting stock or share or has a direct investment in the business entity; or
(2) the justice or judge receives money from the business entity.
(c) A violation of this section by a justice or judge is considered a violation of Canon 4D(1), Code of Judicial Conduct. A justice or judge who has an interest in a business entity that is prohibited by this section must report the interest to the State Commission on Judicial Conduct.
Added by Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 221 (H.B. 62), Sec. 1, eff. January 1, 2015.
Acts 2015, 84th Leg., R.S., Ch. 678 (H.B. 257), Sec. 1, eff. January 1, 2017.
Sec. 21.011. ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL SIGNATURE. A judge or justice presiding over a court in this state may sign an electronic or digital court document, including an order, judgment, ruling, notice, commission, or precept, electronically, digitally, or through another secure method. The document signed in that manner is the official document issued by the court.
Added by Acts 2013, 83rd Leg., R.S., Ch. 1290 (H.B. 2302), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2013.
Sec. 21.012. PRESENCE OF QUALIFIED FACILITY DOG OR QUALIFIED THERAPY DOG IN COURT PROCEEDING. (a) In this section:
(1) "Qualified facility dog" means a dog that:
(A) is a graduate of a program operated by an assistance dog organization that is a member of a nationally recognized assistance dog association; or
(B) before January 1, 2021, on the approval of the court, served in a court proceeding by accompanying a witness who was testifying.
(2) "Qualified therapy dog" means a dog that successfully completes a program operated by an organization that registers, insures, or certifies a therapy dog and the dog's handler as meeting or exceeding the standards of practice in animal-assisted interventions.
(b) Any party to an action filed in a court in this state in which a proceeding related to the action will be held may petition the court for an order authorizing a qualified facility dog or qualified therapy dog to be present with a witness who is testifying before the court through:
(1) in-person testimony; or
(2) closed-circuit video teleconferencing testimony.
(c) The court may enter an order authorizing a qualified facility dog or qualified therapy dog to accompany a witness testifying at the court proceeding if:
(1) the presence of the dog will assist the witness in providing testimony; and
(2) the party petitioning for the order provides proof of liability insurance coverage in effect for the dog.
(d) A handler who is trained to manage the qualified facility dog or qualified therapy dog must accompany the dog provided for a witness at a court proceeding.
(e) A party to the action must petition the court for an order under Subsection (b) not later than the 14th day before the date of the court proceeding.
(f) A court may:
(1) impose restrictions on the presence of the qualified facility dog or qualified therapy dog during the court proceeding; and
(2) issue instructions to the jury, as applicable, regarding the presence of the dog.
Added by Acts 2021, 87th Leg., R.S., Ch. 204 (H.B. 1071), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2021.
Sec. 21.013. CONFIDENTIALITY OF JUDICIAL WORK PRODUCT; CRIMINAL OFFENSE. (a) In this section:
(1) "Judicial work product" means written, electronic, or oral material prepared or communications made in the course of an adjudicatory proceeding before a court determining legal rights, powers, duties, or privileges. The term includes all drafts of opinions or orders and memoranda of law.
(2) "Non-public judicial work product" means:
(A) any written or electronic judicial work product other than documents filed with the clerk of a court for release to the public; or
(B) any oral statement relating to judicial work product made in a closed session of a court or in judicial chambers.
(b) This section applies to:
(1) a court established under Section 1, Article V, Texas Constitution, other than a commissioners court; and
(2) a court subject to this subtitle.
(c) A justice or judge of a court shall comply with supreme court rules governing the confidentiality of non-public judicial work product.
(d) A person, other than a justice or judge, who is involved in crafting an opinion or decision for an adjudicatory proceeding, including a court staff attorney, court clerk, or law clerk, shall maintain the confidentiality of all non-public judicial work product in accordance with supreme court rules.
(e) A person, other than a justice or judge, with access to non-public judicial work product commits an offense if the person knowingly discloses, wholly or partly, the contents of any non-public judicial work product to a person who is not a justice, judge, court staff attorney, court clerk, law clerk, employee of an agency established under Chapter 71 or 72, or other court staff routinely involved in crafting an opinion or decision for an adjudicatory proceeding.
(f) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor.
(g) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that the disclosure of the non-public judicial work product is authorized:
(1) in writing by the justice or judge for whom the work product is prepared; or
(2) under supreme court rules.
Added by Acts 2023, 88th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1054 (S.B. 372), Sec. 1, eff. September 1, 2023.