, Port Arthur, Texas


October 16, 2012

Learning about the district courts

NEDERLAND — As I reported last week, most of us don’t know enough about our Texas judicial system. And, last week, I tried to cover the powers and responsibilities of the Texas Supreme Court.

This column, therefore, will be dedicated to Texas District Courts, which are trial courts of general jurisdiction in Texas.

As of September of 2011, 456 district courts served the state of Texas. Each district court has a single judge who is elected by a partisan election to a four-year term. They have jurisdiction in all felony criminal cases, divorce cases, land title disputes, election contests, civil matters of over $200 disputes, and other matters.

To learn more about District Judgeships, I talked to Judge Milton Gunn “Mickey” Shuffied of the 136th District Court of Jefferson County. I felt it would be interesting to meet and talk to a district judge, especially one who presently is running for re-election.

I learned that Judge Shuffield has occupied the 136th District Court Judgeship since 1995. His background follows:

He graduated from the University of Texas with a B.S. in 1976. Then he got a law degree from the University of Dayton (Ohio) in 1981. He was admitted to law practice in Ohio and Texas in 1981. Judge Shuffield can practice law in the U.S. District Court (Eastern District) —the US Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit — and the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a member of the Texas Bar, the American Bar, the Jefferson County Bar, and the Fifth Circuit Bar Association.

He was married in 1978 and has three children.

Mickey Shuffield was appointed by, surprisingly enough, Gov. George W. Bush.

In addition to, more or less, interviewing Judge Shuffield, I talked to several of my lawyer friends and a couple of judges about him. All of them, without exception, said good things about him, said he was fair as a judge, went strictly by the book, of course, and was a hellluva nice gentleman. They all intend to vote for him. As will I, of course.

I agree that he’s agreeable and not condescending to someone like me, who knows so little about Texas judges or district courts. But I’m learning.

And I found it interesting to learn that the 136th District Court, Judge Shuffield, was involved in Valero’s suit against the Jefferson County Appraisal District.

Sitting as the judge in a suit against the county is a rather large responsibility. And I think Judge Shuffield can handle it.

Neal Morgan of Nederland is a retired educator. Contact him at

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