Law of Texas

The law of Texas is derived from the Constitution of Texas and consists of several levels, including constitutional, statutory, and regulatory law, as well as case law and local laws and regulations.


The Constitution of Texas is the foremost source of state law. Legislation is enacted by the Texas Legislature, published in the General and Special Laws, and codified in the Texas Statutes. State agencies publish regulations (sometimes called administrative law) in the Texas Register, which are in turn codified in the Texas Administrative Code. The Texas legal system is based on common law, which is interpreted by case law through the decisions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Courts of Appeals, which are published in the Texas Cases and South Western Reporter. Counties and municipal governments may also promulgate local ordinances. There are also several sources of persuasive authority, which are not binding authority but are useful to lawyers and judges insofar as they help to clarify the current state of the law.


The Constitution of Texas is the foundation of the government of Texas and vests the legislative power of the state in the Texas Legislature. The Texas Constitution is subject only to the sovereignty of the people of Texas as well as the Constitution of the United States, although this is disputed.


Pursuant to the state constitution, the Texas Legislature has enacted various laws, known as "chapter laws" or generically as "slip laws". These are published in the official General and Special Laws of the State of Texas as "session laws".[1][2] Most of these statutes are codified.[3]

The Texas Constitution requires the Texas Legislature to revise, digest, and publish the laws of the state; however, it has never done so regularly.[4] In 1925 the Texas Legislature reorganized the statutes into three major divisions: the Revised Civil Statutes, Penal Code, and Code of Criminal Procedure.[2][5] In 1963, the Texas legislature began a major revision of the 1925 Texas statutory classification scheme, and as of 1989 over half of the statutory law had been arranged under the recodification process.[2]

The de facto codifications are Vernon's Texas Statutes Annotated and Vernon's Texas Codes Annotated, commonly known as Vernon's.[4][6] The unannotated constitution, codes, and statutes can also be accessed online through a website of the Texas Legislative Council.[6] Gammel's Laws of Texas contains relevant legislation from 1822-1897.[7]


Pursuant to broadly worded statutes, state agencies have promulgated an enormous body of regulations (sometimes called administrative law). The Texas Administrative Code contains the compiled and indexed regulations of Texas state agencies and is published yearly by the Secretary of State.[8] The Texas Register contains proposed rules, notices, executive orders, and other information of general use to the public and is published weekly by the Secretary of State.[9] Both are also available online through a website of the Secretary of State.[10][11]

Case law

The Texas legal system is based on common law, which is interpreted by case law through the decisions of the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Texas Courts of Appeals. There is no longer an officially published reporter. West's Texas Cases (a Texas-specific version of the South Western Reporter) includes reported opinions of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Courts of Appeals.[12][13] The Texas Reports includes Supreme Court opinions until July 1962, and the Texas Criminal Reports includes Court of Criminal Appeals opinions until November 1962.[13] There is no systematic reporting of decisions of trial courts.[12] Court opinions can generally be freely accessed on the web from the various courts' websites, with appellate opinions generally being available from 1997–2002 onwards.[14]

Local ordinances

Municipal governments may promulgate local ordinances, rules, and police regulations, and are usually codified in a "code of ordinances".[15] Counties in Texas have limited regulatory (ordinance) authority.[15] Some codes are printed by private publishers, and some are available online, but the most common method of discovering local ordinances is by physically traveling to the seat of government and asking around.[16]

See also




  1. Legislative Council, p. 9.
  2. State of Texas v. West Publishing Company, 882 F.2d 171 (5th Cir. 1989).
  3. Quarles & Cordon 2003, p. 219.
  4. Quarles & Cordon 2008, p. 121.
  5. Texas State Law Library. "Historical Texas Statutes". Retrieved 3 January 2016.
  6. Legislative Council, pp. 24–25.
  7. Gammel, H.P.N. (1898). The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897.
  8. Quarles & Cordon 2003, p. 305.
  9. Quarles & Cordon 2003, pp. 302–304.
  10. Quarles & Cordon 2003, p. 304.
  11. Quarles & Cordon 2003, p. 306.
  12. Quarles & Cordon 2003, p. 73.
  13. Quarles & Cordon 2008, p. 34.
  14. Quarles & Cordon 2008, pp. 35–36.
  15. Quarles & Cordon 2003, p. 225.
  16. Quarles & Cordon 2003, pp. 225–226.
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