Thursday, January 10, 2013

Harris County Civil Courthouse: District Courts (Civil Division), County Civil Courts at Law, and Probate Courts; and Photo of Jury Plaza



The above is a true photo of the modern Harris County Courthouse (taken with zoom lens from a couple of blocks West). Compare that to what appears on the county clerk's webpage for one of the County Civil Court at Law judges:


It's apparently an architect's (or artist's) rendering that did not make the cut, -- or win the design competition.

The home page of the Harris County District Courts likewise presents a vision of the courthouse plaza that remained in the design phase.



The Harris County Civil Courthouse was not built the way it's shown on the official website, and the jury plaza apparently had to go without the lone star too; not to mention that that glass-and-steel structure with the curved roof now sits on the South end of the Plaza.


Here is a link to several more photos that show what the new Harris County Jury Assembly facility actually looks like (most of it is not visible because it is underground). There is landscaping at street level, i.e. on the jury plaza above the facility, but no huge Lone State Star, blue or otherwise. A more modest single star was placed at the top of the high-rise courthouse on the West side, where the main entrance is.
 
This is how this state-of-the-art high-rise courthouse, which has become an eye-pleasing enhancement of the Downtown Houston skyline, looks from the South:

Harris County Civil Courthouse - South Side
Criminal Courts Building on the left (partial view)
And, for good measure, here is a view of the civil and criminal courts buildings from the East - Multi-level parking garage (with underground tunnel access to the courthouse) and street-level parking lots in foreground. 



ROSTER OF HARRIS COUNTY DISTRICT COURTS AND CURRENT INCUMBENTS


Source: Courts' website (click this link to check for updates and to use the hotlinks to judge-specific pages and other official court-related information). The above is just a screenshot image.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

14th Court of Appeals (Houston) now resides in the restored 1910 Harris County Courthouse


Cupola of former Harris County Civil Courthouse, which
now is the seat of two state appellate courts
The Fourteenth Court of Appeals has nine elected members, whose biographies can be found on the court's website. Their term of office is six years, but new members are often appointed to an unexpired term by the Governor when a sitting justice resigns. Not all of the members are up for re-election at the same time. Intermediate courts of appeal, such as the First and Fourteenth, both of which have their seat at the old (but beautifully restored) Harris County Courthouse in Downtown Houston, hear appeals from both civil and criminal cases. The historic building dates from 1910. Prior to renovation, which took several years, it housed the local Civil District Courts and the Harris County Civil Courts at Law. Those courts moved to the modern skyscraper-with-dome Civil Courthouse on Caroline Street, where they have being doing business since. All courthouses are connected by a tunnel system, as is true of the jury facility, the County Administration Building, and the building on Congress Street that now houses the Harris County Law Library on the first floor (previously on the top floor).    

Current Membership of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals (screenshot from 14th CoA's website 2/1/2013)
2/13/2014 update: The composition of the 14th court of appeals has since changed.
Click this link for list of new members with bios and pics. 
A summary of membership changes follows below:

RECENT PERSONNEL CHANGES ON THE FOURTEENTH COURT OF APPEALS 

FROST APPOINTED CHIEF 

Jusitic Kem Thompson Frost, the longest-serving member of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, was elevated to Chief Justice of the 14th CoA by Texas Governor Rick Perry in September 2013. Frost was originally appointed (in 1999) by George Bush, when he was Governor of Texas, and subsequently re-elected several times. She is the most independent mind and voice on the court, with numerous dissenting opinions.

SEYMORE SUCCEEDED BY DOVOVAN 

Justice Charles W. Seymore's term ended in December 2013. He did not seek re-election as incumbent of Place 8 on the court, and was replaced by Justice John Donovan, who took his oath of office at the beginning of 2013, having received voter approval in the November 2012 general election. Like many of his appeals-court colleagues, Justice Donovan previously served as a Harris County district court judge. He did so twice. As incumbent of the 61st District Court he was defeated in 2008, when Obama won the contest for the White House and local Democratic newcomers swept many long-time Republicans out of office,or off their benches as it were, in Harris County. But Donovan later staged a comeback as judge of the 113th Court, on which he served for two years prior to moving up to the Fourteenth Court of Appeals. District court judges have four-year terms while a full term on the court of appeals lasts six years. Those appointed to unexpired terms however, face the voters much sooner.

THE BROWN SUCCESSION: FROM JEFF TO MARC 

Justice Marc Brown was appointed by Governor Perry in October 2013 to fill the vacancy created by Justice Jeff Brown's promotion to the Texas Supreme Court, also thanks to Rick Perry. There is yet another "Justice Brown" - Harvey G. Brown. Guv. Perry  appointed him to the First Court of Appeals in 2010 where he occupies Place 6 as successor of Justice George C. Hanks, who went on to become a U.S. Magistrate Judge. All three Browns were previously Harris County trial court judges (as was Hanks, and as were many others). Marc Brown served as a criminal district court judge prior to his appointment to the appellate bench, while Harvey Brown and Jeff Brown both sat on civil district court benches. Unsurprisingly, given their appointments by Governor Perry, all three are Republicans.

EDITORIAL NOTE: The information on the membership changes on the 14th Court of Appeals (14thCoA) was last updated 2/13/2014. Such content revisions do not affect the original publication date shown on the blog post.



Houston's First Court of Appeals based in old Harris County Courthouse after massive renovation project that did not alter its appearance much



Formerly home to Harris County Civil Courts, now seat of two Texas Courts of Appeals 
(First and Fourteenth Appellate Districts, which cover the same aggregation of counties)

MEMBERSHIP OF THE FIRST COURT OF APPEALS

The First Court of Appeals consists of nine elected members, and hears cases in panels of three. Vacancies on the court are filled by gubernatorial appointment. In 2013, all justices were Republicans save one, Jim Sharp, who won election as a Democrat when President Obama was first elected, and faces re-election in 2014. Like all other intermediate courts of appeals, the First Court of Appeals decides both civil and criminal appeals. 

Current Membership of the First Court of Appeals (Feb 1, 2013 snip of collective pic & bio page on court's website)

NOTE: For updated version of list of justices with bios and photos, click this link to the court's website.
The latest revision took place 1/31/2014.


Dome (outside) and Rotuda seen from the inside looking up

1910 Harris County Courthouse (prior to restoration)