On the Ballot: Texas Constitutional Amendments 2019

Ten proposed constitutional amendments will be on the November ballot. The Texas League of Women Voters has compiled a nice list of the amendments along with important voting deadlines. Compare the pros and cons of each proposed amendment, and prepare to cast your vote on Election Day, November 5, 2019.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments

  1. Municipal Judges

  2. Assistance for Water Projects in Distressed Areas

  3. Tax Relief for Disaster Areas

  4. Personal Income Tax

  5. Sporting Goods Tax to Support State Parks

  6. Cancer Prevention & Research

  7. Funding Public Education

  8. Flood Control

  9. Tax Exemption of Precious Metals

  10. Law Enforcement Animals

For additional information and resources for voting in Texas, visit VoteTexas.gov And, for a brief history lesson on why the Texas Constitution is so long, with so many amendments, read this article at the Texas Tribune. Finally, for all your Texas statutory and Constitutional law research needs, the Texas Legislative Reference Library is your best free online resource.

Expanding a Special Collection - The Law of Coahuila and Texas

We were pleased to welcome Dr. Jesús F. de la Teja, author, professor, and CEO of the Texas State Historical Association, and David A. Furlow, Executive Editor of the Journal of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, at the Harris County Law Library on Friday to mark the donation of two new volumes to the law library’s special collection - The Law of Coahuila and Texas, or La Ley de Coahuila y Texas.

Photo from left: Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Dr. Magdalena de la Teja, Dr. Jesús F. de la Teja, David A. Furlow, Law Library Director Mariann Sears, Law Library Deputy Director Joseph D. Lawson


Actas del Congreso Constituyente de Coahuila y Texas de 1824 a 1827

Dr. de la Teja signed the donated two-volume work entitled Actas del Congreso Constituyente de Coahuila y Texas de 1824 a 1827: Primera Constitución bilingüe, or Acts of the Constituent Congress of Coahuila and Texas, 1824–1827 : Mexico’s Only Bilingual Constitution, which he coauthored with Judge Manuel González Oropeza, former magistrate for the Federal Electoral Commission of Mexico. The work provides the text of the document and analysis of the pivotal role it played in the transition of Coahuila and Texas from joined states of Mexico to states separated by an international border. Given the content of the work, Dr. de la Teja’s inscription is apt:

For the Harris County Law Library,

With great appreciation for your efforts to preserve and promote ties with our sister republic,

/s/Jesús F. de la Teja

4/5/2019


The Law of Coahuila and Texas, an historical resource collection

La Ley de Coahuila y Texas, una colección de recursos históricos

 The two-volume set is now a part of the Law Library’s collection of materials focused on the legal history of Southeast Texas and Northeast Mexico from Spanish colonization to statehood. It includes historical volumes of texts containing some of the region’s earliest laws to modern analysis that provide context and finding aids for modern researchers. Marking the end of the collection’s chronological scope is a reproduction of Captain William Emory’s survey of the U.S.-Mexico border issued in 1859. The three-volume set contains firsthand accounts of surveyors and illustrations of the region’s topography, flora, and fauna.


Digesto Constitucional Mexicano: Historia Constitucional de la Nacion - De Aguascalientes a Zacatecas: 1824-2017

On behalf of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, Mr. Furlow also donated the scholarly treatise entitled Digesto Constitucional Mexicano: Historia Constitucional de la Nacion - De Aguascalientes a Zacatecas: 1824-2017. This work, written by Judge Manuel González Oropeza, provides extensive insight into the historical evolution of constitutional law in an area of Mexico not previously covered by the Law Library’s collection. We appreciate the donation and are thrilled to make these resources available to all at the Harris County Law Library.

Hurricane Harvey Recovery Resources

On this day in 2017, Harris County was still reeling from the devastation caused by the worst flooding event in U.S. history. A year later, Hurricane Harvey's toll is still being felt throughout our community. That is why the Harris County Law Library remains committed to connecting those impacted with relevant information about resources and services to help with recovery. Visit our Harvey Recovery Resources page or visit our downtown Houston location to find information on legal helplines, referral services, and clinics that can help with the legal aspects of the recovery process.

Celebrating San Jacinto Day

Today is San Jacinto Day! We, along with many others across the state, turn our thoughts to the final battle of the Texas Revolution that took place on April 21, 1836. The victory paved the way for a new government to form under the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas and the rest is legal research.

To celebrate the day, we're offering a #shelfie opportunity the week of April 23 at the Harris County Law Library. Grab your phone and take a #shelfie in front of our monographic replica of the San Jacinto Monument. Be sure to post it to Twitter and tag it #SanJacintheStacks!

Fighting Hate Crimes and Bias in Texas - a free CLE event

The fight against violence and bigotry is of perennial concern in American Jurisprudence. Ten Dollars to Hate by Patricia Bernstein brings the story of one such fight from the 1920s into our modern consciousness. The book tells the story of Texas prosecutor Dan Moody, whose efforts against the Ku Klux Klan led to the nation's first successful prosecution of the well-connected group for their violent assaults and criminal acts. Moody's lead was followed around the country, loosening the supremacist group's grip on American politics.

Ms. Bernstein will present her research alongside a panel of attorneys who fight hate and bias everyday at a free CLE event on September 8. The event is cosponsored by the Offices of Vince Ryan, Harris County Attorney, and Kim Ogg, Harris County District Attorney, and is accredited for both CLE (3.0 hours in Texas; 0.5 hour ethics) and TCOLE credit. Register today at www.harriscountylawlibrary.org/tendollars.

Happy San Jacinto Day, Texas!

Happy San Jacinto Day, Texas! Today marks the 181st anniversary of the final battle for Texas independence that took place in modern day Harris County between the forces of General Sam Houston and General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. The victory left a lasting impression locally and even inspires the centerpiece of the seal of the Harris County Attorney's Office. For more on the battle and how it influenced the design of the Law Library's parent organization's seal, see our Ex Libris Juris post commemorating the 180th San Jacinto Day.

Looking Back - Judge Roy Bean

Throughout its history, Texas has had its share of larger-than-life figures from outlaws Bonnie & Clyde to war hero Audie Murphy to R & B superstar Beyoncé. Perhaps, one of the more colorful characters to arrive and take up residence in the Lone Star State was Judge Roy Bean, who died on this day in 1903. As we celebrate Texas History Month, let’s take a look back at the life of one of the more interesting and picturesque figures in American jurisprudence.

Born in Kentucky, Judge Roy Bean found himself in Texas after encountering some trouble (of his own making) in both Mexico and California. He opened a saloon, The Jersey Lilly, as an homage to the beautiful actress Lillie Langtry with whom he was quite smitten, and founded the village of Langtry, described as “a one-street frontier town nestl[ed] in a deep canyon of the Rio Grande where the railroad crosses the big river.” (See Orange Daily Tribune 5/29/1903). It was in this saloon, that Judge Bean, the self-proclaimed “law West of the Pecos,” meted out his own version of justice in the Old West based upon his notions of fairness and the law. No one is quite certain as to how he became vested with the authority of a justice of the peace, but nevertheless, he held court while seated “on the billiard table with a copy of the statutes of 1879 (the only one in his possession).” (See The Southern Mercury 6/30/1904). (To see a copy of the Laws of Texas, visit the Law Library). Of course, it's not surprising that his decisions were always final with no room for an appeal.

Judge Roy Bean Saloon & Justice Court, Langtry, Val Verde County, TX

Photo from the Library of Congress Photo, Print, & Drawing Collection

Judge Roy Bean is best remembered for his peculiar rulings that really did seem, in retrospect, to smack of common sense.  In one case, two men came to the court with their wives and expressed a desire to be divorced, adding that they wished to marry the other man’s wife. The judge granted the requested divorces and then proceeded to marry each man to the other’s wife. (See The Sunday Gazetteer 9/14/1902). In one of his most noted cases, Judge Bean held an inquest over the remains of a man found under the bridge that crossed the Pecos River. In the man’s pockets, the judge found a revolver and $50. The judge then fined the corpse $50 for carrying a concealed weapon. This ruling may still be the only one on record where a dead man was fined for carrying a concealed weapon. (See The Southern Mercury 6/30/1904). The judge was also known for handing out punishments whereby the offender was required to pay his fine by purchasing beer, typically two dozen bottles, at The Jersey Lilly and treating the crowd. (See Orange Daily Tribune 5/29/1903). Perhaps, not the most ethical of punishments, but it is certainly one of the most memorable and popular with the townsfolk.

The exploits and rulings of Judge Roy Bean have been documented in newspapers throughout the State of Texas. If you are interested in learning more about the judge and reading some articles about him, visit The Portal to Texas History, a wonderful website maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries that features some rare and historical primary source materials. Also visit the site of the Texas State Historical Association and The Handbook of Texas, a digital gateway to all things Texas.

If pop culture is more to your liking, sit down and watch The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, a 1972 film starring Paul Newman as the judge and Ava Gardner as Lilly Langtry, the object of his affection. There was also a short-lived television series, Judge Roy Bean, that ran for one season from 1956-57, and a French film, entitled Le Juge, which was released in 1971.

For good or for bad, Judge Roy Bean has certainly carved himself a place in Texas history. As for the question of whether he is a leading figure in American jurisprudence, you be the judge.

December 29, 1845: Texas Achieves Statehood

Texas Achieves Statehood: December 29, 1845

On this day in 1845, Texas became the 28th state of the United States of America. Texan voters supported annexation as early as 1836, but opposition in the U.S. was strong. After years of heavy debate, Texas finally achieved statehood.

The Harris County Law Library has been recognizing this important date all month long with an exhibit in the Law Library lobby. A new exhibit will take its place at the start of the new year, but many of the featured items can be viewed online, including sections from Unites States Statutes at Large that document the annexation, as well as an 1844 broadside of the annexation debatea political cartoon depicting the marriage of Texas and the United States, and an early Texas map. For more information about the events leading up to annexation and eventual statehood, please visit the Texas Almanac online.