Kris Seago
Government/Political Science
Material Type:
Full Course
Academic Lower Division
Austin Community College
  • ACC Liberal Arts
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    Sources and Hierarchy of Law in Texas


    Sources and Hierarchy of Law in Texas

    Learning Objective

    By the end of this section, you will be able to:

    • Identify the sources and hierachy of law in Texas


    It's often said that we are a "nation of laws," but it is also true that we are a state of laws. This section explores the various sources and hierarchies of law in Texas. 

    Types of Law

    Within codified law, there are two forms of law that the courts are concerned about within any legal system: civil law and criminal law.

    Civil laws are rules and regulations which govern transactions and grievances between individual citizens.

    Criminal law is concerned with actions which are dangerous or harmful to society as a whole, in which prosecution is pursued not by an individual but by the state. The purpose of criminal law is to 1) provide the specific definition of what constitutes a crime and to 2) prescribe punishments for committing such a crime. No criminal law can be valid unless it includes both of these factors.

    Criminal justice is then primarily concerned with the enforcement of criminal law.




    Burden of Proof



    concerns private rights relief or remedy


    a preponderance of the evidence

    divorce, lawsuit


    type of case that violates a specific penal law

    fine, imprisonment, or both

    beyond a reasonable doubt

    traffic violation, felony charge

    Table 5.1 Types of Law

    Sources of Law

    Sources of law in Texas include constitutional law, statutory law, administrative regulations, court precedence, and local codes and ordinances.

    Constitutional Law

    Constitutional law is the body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of different entities within a state, including the executive, legislature, and the judiciary; as well as the basic rights of citizens and the relationship between the central government and state, provincial, or territorial governments. In Texas, constitutional law includes:

    • National Constitution
    • Texas Constitution

    As we explored in Chapter Two, the Texas Constitution establishes the structure and purpose of the Texas government. The current Texas Constitution took effect on February 15, 1876.

    Statutory Law

    Statutes are laws passed by a legislature. In Texas, statutory law can consist of

    • National Laws (laws passed by the national Congress)

    • Texas State Statutes (laws passed by the Texas State Legislature)

    Administrative Regulations

    Administrative regulations are laws that govern the activities of administrative agencies of government. Government agency action can include rule making, adjudication, or the enforcement of a specific regulatory agenda. In Texas, adminisrative regulatons can consist of:

    • National regulations

    • Texas State administrative code

    Court precedents

    Precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. Common-law legal systems place great value on deciding cases according to consistent principled rules, so that similar facts will yield similar and predictable outcomes, and observance of precedent is the mechanism by which that goal is attained. The principle by which judges are bound to precedents is known as stare decisis (a Latin phrase with the literal meaning of "Let the decision stand"). 

    The courts considering the Del Lago case discussed in the introduction to this chapter looked at a variety of similar cases to determine the way responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries should be decided.

    Local codes and ordinances

    A local ordinance is a law for a political division smaller than a state or nation, i.e., a local government such as a city or county.

    Hierarchy of Law

    The hierarchy of law in the Texas judicial system is relatively simple:

    Constitutional Law overrules statutory law which in turn overrules administrative regulations which finally overrules local codes and ordinances.

    Licenses and Attribution


    Law in Texas: Authored by: Andrew Teas. License: CC BY: Attribution