The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957 Page: 4
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
When Judge Williamson asked the defendant for his authorities
supporting the motion, the ruffian drove his dagger into the
table before the judge, and stated that in Shelby County the
knife was the law and statutes which ruled the country. "Three-
legged Willie" jumped to his feet, drew his pistol, and laid
it on the table beside the knife with the muzzle pointed at
the defendant. In reply he announced, "If that is the law of
Shelby County, this is the constitution that overrules your law.
Your motion to dismiss is overruled. Mr. Clerk proceed with
When Texas entered the Union in 1845, a new constitution was
adopted by the people. This constitution provided for a Supreme
Court composed of a chief justice and two associate justices, for
district courts, and for such inferior courts as the legislature
might establish. The Supreme Court had only appellate juris-
diction. The distinction between law and equity was abolished
and jury trial was provided for in equity causes. Until an
amendment was adopted in 1850 providing for the election of
judges, they were appointed by the governor with the advice
and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. The provisos concern-
ing the judiciary in the Constitution of 1845 were substantially
incorporated into the Constitution of 1861, when Texas with-
drew from the Union.
In 1866 Texas was restored to the United States and a new
constitution was adopted. All judges were to be selected by the
electorate. The Supreme Court was increased to five members
who held office for ten years and elected a chief justice from their
number. The court's jurisdiction was appellate only. The district
courts were given appellate jurisdiction in cases originating in
lower courts as well as original and appellate jurisdiction over
the county court in probate and guardianship cases, as might be
prescribed by the legislature. The jurisdiction of the county court
was carefully prescribed to include civil cases where the matter
in controversy did not exceed five hundred dollars, exclusive of
interest. Justices of the peace were given civil jurisdiction as
might be provided by law, where the matter in controversy did
8Duncan W. Robinson, Judge Robert McAlpine Williamson, Texas' Three-Legged
Willie (Austin, 1948), i6o-161.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 60, July 1956 - April, 1957, periodical, 1957; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101163/m1/16/: accessed May 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.