Which courts handle appeals?
In Texas, there are three basic court levels a person facing serious criminal charges can go through.
The first level is the trial court. A trial can happen in either a county court or a district court. There is one judge presiding over each of these courts. These courts are the only ones with the power to convene juries and hold trials.
Intermediate Appellate Courts
The second level is the intermediate appellate court. Whereas there are over 450 district courts in Texas, there are only 14 appellate courts covering the state. These courts have between 3 and 13 judges. Each case is decided by a panel of 3 judges. These courts do not hold trials. There is never a jury or witnesses involved in a case on appeal. The 3 judges assigned to a case review what happened at the trial court level and base their decision solely upon that record.
The Court of Criminal Appeals
If someone loses at the intermediate appellate court level, he can appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals. That court is the highest court in Texas for criminal cases. The Texas Supreme Court only handles civil cases. The Court of Criminal Appeals and the Texas Supreme Court are sister courts with equal powers, one for criminal law and one for civil law. There are nine judges on the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Unlike the first two courts, the Court of Criminal Appeals does not have to hear a case. It gets to pick and choose which cases it hears. In 2016, the Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to look at less than 7 percent of the cases presented to it.