Last updated: October 23, 2013
As the transportation and tourism gateway to the Caribbean, Galveston combines the best of the American South and the Gulf of Mexico. A hubbub of activity for such a small city, the Galveston port regularly sends off cruise liners and shipping boats alike. Idyllic as such scenes may appear to be, our town’s residents may nevertheless find themselves facing a day in court, even if just for jury duty.
The Texas judicial system consists of three trial-level layers: municipal court, county court and district court. Municipal Courts are the smallest and handle traffic, parking or ordinance violations. County Court and District Court are both housed in the same building in Galveston, the County Justice Center. Additionally, Galveston has a specialized Juvenile Court. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular legal matter is critical to your success, so here is a guide to some of the key courthouses in Galveston.
The Galveston County Justice Center handles a wide variety of civil and criminal law matters. This structure houses the small-time County Courts, the big-time District Courts, Family Court and Probate Court all in one building. The County Court will typically handle civil lawsuits worth up to $10,000 and criminal misdemeanors, while the District Court will handle larger lawsuits and felony criminal violations. Check out their law library in Suite 1600 to learn about your specific issue, or browse their list of online forms to select the right one. If you have any doubt about which court is appropriate for you, the County Justice Center is a good place to start.
The Juvenile Justice Center deals with minors who commit criminal acts and minors who have suffered abuse or neglect. Juvenile Justice is aimed more at rehabilitating children instead of punishing them, so be sure to speak with the judge and prosecutor about educational outreach programs as an alternative to Juvi Hall.
The Galveston Municipal Court handles traffic infractions, parking violations and other minor violations of Galveston city ordinances (think: noise complaints, zoning violations). Instead of wasting time waiting in line, pay your traffic and parking tickets online instead.
Like the Galveston Municipal Court, the Texas City Municipal Court handles city ordinance and minor criminal violations. Texas City does not have a “pay online” option, so you must pay your tickets in person or by mailing the payment to the court.
The Galveston Division of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas meets in the same building that holds the Post Office. The Southern District of Texas lay within the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has appellate jurisdiction over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. This court only handles matters of federal law at the trial level.