The Chron endorsed the two Republican incumbents for Harris County Civil Court At Law – they were both appointed to fill vacancies, so it’s not accurate to say they’re running for re-election – but the interesting thing about the endorsement is the lucid explanation of what exactly the Harris County Civil Courts At Law do:
The four Harris County civil courts at law are important utility players in the state court system. They hear civil matters ranging from $200 to $200,000, and act as appellate courts for the municipal and justice of the peace courts a rung below them on the judicial ladder.
They’re busy places, dispensing with approximately 1 million cases annually for ordinary folks. One of their most crucial tasks is to offer access to litigants with matters that are personally important, but whose means are often limited. County court at law judges must bring an “everyman” sensibility to the bench, which frequently means patiently explaining the legal system to pro se clients – those who choose to represent themselves.
Perhaps the most high-profile duty of these civil courts at law is their role in the eminent domain process that decides “takings” of private property for public uses such as roads and highways, and can have an impact in gentrification of economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
More information on the county courts can be found here. As with algebra, this is probably not something that most people need to know to get through their daily lives, but you’re better off if you at least have some familiarity with it. I couldn’t have told you what the County Courts did before. That concludes the civics lesson for today.