I am looking for information regarding the setup of lawmen and courts in Texas in the 1880s. Specifically, I would like to know how the jurisdiction for law officers was delegated (ex. sheriffs, marshals, rangers, etc.) and how the courts of the time worked (ex. state, local, federal, etc.).
I have an instance that I am trying to write about in a story and I am wondering what law agencies and courts would be involved. The instance involves a man killing another just outside of town. What law enforcement agency would handle this? If the man were given a trial, where would it be? Who would be the judge? How would the trial work?
Any information or links you can provide will be appreciated.
While I am not sure about Texas (who is?) but I think jursidiction was not a large problem, especially in the early years. I think if a local lawman wanted the case, he would just take charge, and if nor he would pass. I guess much would depend on how many various law-dawgs were in the area. I do know that here in the Black Hills, jurisdiction was a rather vague concept.
As to the courts, Deadwood got it's first judge early on. (1877). Before there was just a "citizens commitee" as I am sure was the case in many areas.
This is an interesting question. I think there was more "law" than many suppose.
I wasn’t even thinking about constables since they are mostly considered local assistants for the court these days, but back then they were the police for the entire county they represented, and in doing so would most likely be the authority for crimes that happened outside the city limits.
From Wiki: (I know WIKI???)
In Texas, constables and their deputies are fully empowered police officers with county-wide jurisdiction and thus, may legally exercise their authority in any precinct within their county;
The duties of a Texas constable generally include providing
In 2000, there were 2,630 full-time deputies and 418 reserve deputies working for the 760 constables' offices in Texas. Of this number, 35% were primarily assigned to patrol, 33% to serving process, 12% to court security, and 7% to criminal investigations. The Harris County Precinct 4 and 5 Constables' Offices are the largest constables' offices in Texas with over 300 deputies each.Texas Constitution of 1876 (Article 5, Section 18) provides for the election of a constable in each precinct of a county, and counties may have between four and eight precincts each depending on their population. Currently, the term of office for Texas constables is four years. However, when vacancies arise, the commissioners court of the respective county has the authority to appoint a replacement to serve out the remaining term. however, some constables' offices limit themselves to providing law enforcement services only to their respective precinct, except in the case of serving civil and criminal process. Constables and their deputies may serve civil process in any precinct in their county and any contiguous county and can serve warrants anywhere in the state.bailiffs for the justice of the peace court(s) within his precinct and serving process issued therefrom and from any other court. Moreover, some constables' offices limit themselves to only these activities but others provide patrol, investigative, and security services as well.
There are 4 levels of law enforcement in Texas--town or city, county precinct, county, & state, but there was no true state law enforcement until 1874. In the early 1870s, during the first part of E. J. Davis' governance, there was a statewide organization of thugs under Davis, called the Texas State Police. Eventually even Davis couldn't stand the excesses they committed & dissolved the organization. The Texas rangers, who didn't get a capital letter until in the 1880s, were an Indian-fighting militia. Gov. Richard Coke, who replaced Davis, formed the Frontier Batallion of the Texas rangers & sent it to the Nueces strip--the area between the Nueces River & the Rio Grande--with orders to put a stop to the rampant outlawry in the area. This was the first time the rangers had ever been used as lawmen.
Depending on the size, an incorporated city--one with a mayor and town council--will have either a city marshal's office or a police department. As late as the 1970s Buckingham, Texas, a small incorporated suburb between Richardson & Dallas, actually had a town marshal. With the exception of 'felonies on view,' a city marshal, his deputy, or a city policeman has jurisdiction within the limits of the town. If a city police officer is out of his town--even out of his county--& witnesses an armed robbery, he can act, but he can't issue a speeding ticket in another town.
Each county is divided into at least 4 & sometimes more precincts. Each precinct is represented, at the County Court, by a commissioner. He used to be--& in some counties still is--responsible for the maintenance of roads in his precinct. Each precinct also has a Justice of the Peace, who can try misdemeanor cases, perform marriages, & issue peace bonds, among other things. Attached to each JP court is a constable, who may, depending on the size & population of the precinct, have deputies. The prmary job of a constable is serving warrants and attachments issued by his JP, though he is a sworn law enforcement officer.
The sheriff is the chief lawman of the county. Although he has jurisdiction anywhere in the county, he usually operates only in the unincorporated parts of his county. He also runs the county jail. In some rural counties he's the tax assessor/collector as well as the sheriff. Ozona, Texas is a county seat--it's also the only town of any size in its county--but it has never incorporated. There is no mayor, no city council, and no police force. The administration of the town is handled by the county commissioners' court & the county judge. The local sheriff's department handles law enforcement in Ozona.
The Texas Rangers, until 1935, were a part of the state's militia system as well as the statewide police force. Adjutants General could come from either the National Guard or the Rangers. William W. Sterling, in the early 1930s, was the last Ranger AG in Texas. In 1933 the state formed a new police organization, the Texas Highway Patrol. In 1935 the Texas Department of Public Safety was established. At that time the Rangers lost their militia status & became the CID of the state's DPS.
Felonies in Texas are tried in a district court. A judicial district is usually made up of several counties. The local district attorney, as prosecutor, will try the case before the district judge. Normally the trial is held in the county in which the felony is committed. A jury panel, usually 50 or more people, is summoned to the courthouse. From that panel the district prosecutor and the defense attorney have to agree on a group of 12 to decide the case. There are appellate courts, but all criminal cases are heard, finally--if the appeal gets that far--by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Texas Supreme Court hears only civil cases.
Maybe, these links could be helpful to you..
H.P.N. Gammel's The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897 has long been one of the most important primary resources for the study of Texas' complex history during the Nineteenth Century. His monumental compilation charts Texas from the time of colonization through to statehood and reveals Texas' legal history during crucial times in its development
Thanks to a grant from the State Bar of Texas, Litigation Section, the State Law Library has digitized the Texas Statutes from 1879 through 1925. We believe this will complement the Gammel's digitization project recently performed by the University of North Texas .