Many pro se litigants, or those filing lawsuits without the help of a lawyer, have questions about where to file their court documents. Read on to learn about the court structure of Texas and the different courts in the state and in Harris County. Keep in mind that if you are still unsure of where to file, it is always best to consult with an attorney.
The following webpages were referenced in creating this Civ Pro blog post and are great places to start when learning about the court system in Texas:
What are the different courts in Texas?
The Texas court system is divided into appellate courts and trial courts. The graphic to the right outlines the court structure of the state of Texas. You can view courts in Texas by county here.
State trial courts of general and special jurisdiction
District Courts have general jurisdiction in civil cases, felony criminal cases, and juvenile cases. 13 of the district courts are designated as Criminal District Courts.
What is the clerk’s office?
The District Clerk’s Office serves the District Courts. The Harris County District Clerk’s Office has information about available methods for filing cases with the district clerk on its website. Most civil, family, and juvenile cases in Harris County are filed with the District Clerk’s Office. The District Clerk’s Office maintains the official records of Harris County District Courts (including Civil, Criminal, Family, and Juvenile District Courts), as well as County Criminal Courts and other specialty courts.
The County Clerk’s Office serves the County Courts. The Harris County Clerk’s Office is where probate, personal records, and other certain civil cases are filed. The County Clerk also maintains the records of Commissioners Court, Harris County Probate Courts, and the Harris County Civil Courts at Law.
Harris County Courts
District & County Courts
Located at the Harris County Civil Courthouse (201 Caroline Street, downtown Houston) are the:
County Criminal Courts
Located at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center (1201 Franklin Street, downtown Houston) are the Harris County Criminal Courts at Law No. 1-16. These courts oversee Class A and B misdemeanors and other criminal cases.
Juvenile District Courts
The Harris County Juvenile Justice Center (1200 Congress Street, downtown Houston) houses the Juvenile District Courts.
The Harris County Justice Courts are located at the Harris County Courthouse, also called the Harris County 1910 Courthouse (301 Fannin Street, downtown Houston), houses Justice of the Peace Precincts No. 1-8. The Justice Courts oversee small claims, traffic, eviction, occupational license, and some criminal cases.
There are over 30 cities within Harris County, and each has its own municipal court. There are six Houston Municipal Courts. Typically, the municipal courts handle city ordinance violations, Class C misdemeanors, and other municipal cases.
Where can I find court records and other Texas public records?
Find answers to frequently asked questions and search public records with Texas Court Records
Harris County Civil, Family, & Criminal District Court records: Search Our Records and Documents – Harris County District Clerk’s Office
Harris County Civil Court records: Document Search Portal – Harris County Clerk
Harris County Justice Court records: Find My Case – Harris County Justice Court
Harris County Juvenile Court records: Juvenile Records Requests – Harris County Juvenile Probation Department
Harris County Probate Court records: Document Search Portal – Harris County Clerk
City of Houston Municipal Court records: Public Information Request Center – City of Houston
Texas State Small Claims Court records: Texas Small Claims Court Records – StateRecords.org
Check out our previous Civ Pro blog post on e-filing in Texas for tips and information about filing your court documents electronically.