St. Mary's Law Journal


This Article examines the Texas Constitution’s grant of authority to appellate courts to review questions of fact and the Texas Supreme Court’s treatment of that authority. It then contrasts that treatment with the contrary position taken by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals since 1981. It also examines the sentiments of the courts of appeals themselves. The analysis of the decisions demonstrates the highest courts of Texas do not uniformly view the constitutional provision in question. It also shows resulting confusion and dissatisfaction. The Court of Criminal Appeals needs a better, more logical approach in interpreting the Texas constitution. Also illustrated is that Court’s tenacious refusal to acknowledge, as has the Texas Supreme Court, that the article V, section 6 factual conclusivity clause limits its authority. Finally, this Article suggests a solution to the problems resulting from different interpretations of one constitutional provision. The court of criminal appeals continues to refuse to give the state constitutional mandate—that decisions of courts of appeals “shall be conclusive on all questions of fact”—its plain meaning. This demonstrates an inability to read plainly, lack of common sense, and a degree of inflexibility. The judicial article contemplates a system under which the courts of appeals finally decide factual questions. The design allows the highest courts in Texas to function properly to resolve conflicts in intermediate court decisions, and to supervise the orderly development of law while determining significant legal issues. If the Court of Criminal Appeals follows the proposal suggested in this article, it would not exercise any jurisdiction over factual questions. Then it could remain aloof from matters of factual dispute. It could concern itself more with the truly significant questions of law, and at the same time function in accordance with the spirit and letter of the constitutional judicial article.


St. Mary's University School of Law