Judicial Civics and History Project

Taming Texas Judicial Civics and Court History Project

The Texas judicial system is as large and complex as Texas itself. It includes not only the courts themselves but also the ever-evolving body of law that underlies their decisions. Understanding how the system works is an important starting place for becoming an informed and civically engaged citizen.

The Taming Texas Judicial Civics and History Project is designed to foster that understanding in our state’s young people through an innovative program that combines colorful stories from the history of the Texas courts with hands-on classroom activities.

The project is centered around the books in the Taming Texas book series. The first volume in this series, Taming Texas: How Law and Order Came to the Lone Star State, was published in January 2016. The second book, Law and the Texas Frontier, was released in January 2018, and the third, The Chief Justices of Texas, in February 2020. Written specifically for seventh-grade Texas history students, the books are distributed in hard-copy format to public school classrooms during special presentations by judges and attorneys, and in e-book format through download from this website. Hard copies are also available for purchase.

The classroom program has reached more than 15,000 students in eight school districts in the Houston area since its inception in 2016. It is also being offered in the Dallas area and will be extended to other areas of the state over the next few years.
The curriculum for the classroom presentations includes two lessons, taught by the same teaching team in two separate sessions. The first lesson, called “The Rule of Law and Milestones in Texas Law,” introduces students to the concept of the rule of law and tells the story of how laws and the courts developed in Texas. It presents court cases that arose between 1840 and 1925 and challenges students to predict their outcomes.

Lesson two focuses specifically on the structure and functions of the courts. Through a variety of classroom activities, students learn how the Texas court system operates, which courts handle particular kinds of cases, and why it’s important to know these things. The judges and attorneys who visit the classes are able to share their first-hand experiences in the courtroom and to inspire students to learn more about the state’s laws and courts.

The Taming Texas Judicial Civics and Court History Project is generously funded by the Fellows of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. Click here for a list of the TSCHS Fellows.

Taming Texas Classroom Resources

Taming Texas book series

 

Volume 1

Taming Texas: How Law and Order Came to the Lone Star State

Written specifically for 7th-grade Texas history classes, this book shows students how the state’s court system fits into the larger picture of Texas history: its roots, heroes, growing pains, and milestones, from the days of early Spanish colonization to the present.

The book’s opening stories help students place themselves in an early Texas in which there was no law or order, and challenge them to think about how a society begins to organize itself. Subsequent stories show how laws were made and tested in the courts over the next 150 years, with an emphasis on the aspects of the Texas experience that are uniquely our own.

The book is written by noted Texas historian James L. Haley and Austin writer-editor Marilyn P. Duncan. About the authors.

The Taming Texas books are generously funded by the Fellows of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. Click here for a list of the TSCHS Fellows.

Foreword, by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, The Supreme Court of Texas.


Book downloads: 
Taming Texas: How Law and Order Came to the Lone Star State

PDF

Digital E-book for iBooks

Digital E-book for Kindle

 
Volume 2

Taming Texas: Law and the Texas Frontier

The second book in the Taming Texas Series takes a closer look at how life on the frontier of Texas both shaped and was shaped by changing laws. Beginning with the claiming of El Paso by Spanish conquistador Don Juan Oñate in 1598 and ending with the closing of the Texas frontier in 1900, the book shows how the characters and events of Texas history were connected in important ways to the legal systems in place at each juncture. It also reveals what happened when the laws were not up to the task of protecting people, especially during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Like the first book, Law and the Texas Frontier was coauthored by James L. Haley and Marilyn P. Duncan. About the authors.

The Taming Texas books are generously funded by the Fellows of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. Click here for a list of the TSCHS Fellows.

Foreword to Volume 2, by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, The Supreme Court of Texas.


Book downloads: 
Taming Texas: Law and the Texas Frontier

PDF

Digital E-book for iBooks

 
Volume 3

Taming Texas: The Chief Justices of Texas

This third book in the Taming Texas Series tells the stories of the twenty-seven men and one woman who have served as Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court so far. The other two books in the series showed how Texas changed from an uncivilized frontier to the thriving state it is today with the help of a strong legal system. This book takes a closer look at those individuals who rose to the top of the system. Some held the Chief Justice position for many years, while others were short-timers. Their names are not as well known as other leaders throughout Texas history, but this book is a first step toward changing that.

Like the first and second book, Law and the Texas Frontier was coauthored by James L. Haley and Marilyn P. Duncan. About the authors.

The Taming Texas books are generously funded by the Fellows of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. Click here for a list of the TSCHS Fellows.

Foreword to Volume 2, by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, The Supreme Court of Texas.


Book downloads:
Taming Texas: Law and the Texas Frontier

PDF

Hardbound copies of Taming Texas

Hardbound copies of Taming Texas are available for purchase for $20 plus $5 postage, handling, and tax.


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