Tenth Court of Appeals


by Chief Justice Frank G. McDonald, Retired (Deceased)

(Updated by Chief Justice Tom Gray)

When the McLennan County Courthouse was built in 1901, County Judge J.N. Gallagher (later the first Chief Justice of the Tenth Court of Appeals) foresaw that the Legislature might in the future create a Court of Civil Appeals for Central Texas to sit in Waco. Consequently, he caused the fourth floor of the courthouse to be built, but left unoccupied, to later house an appellate court.

In 1923 the Legislature created the Tenth Supreme Judicial District to be composed of twelve counties: Bosque, Brazos, Coryell, Falls, Freestone, Hamilton, Hill, Leon, Limestone, Madison, McLennan, and Robertson. The Legislature added Johnson, Navarro, Somervell, and Hood Counties in 1927; removed Hood County in 1929; added Ellis County in 1932; and added Burleson and Walker Counties in 2005.

The Court of Civil Appeals for the Tenth Supreme Judicial District met for its first regular session in the 74th District Courtroom of the McLennan County Courthouse at 10:00 a.m. on June 30, 1923. Associate Justices James M. Robertson of Meridian and G.W. Barcus of Waco constituted the first court. They appointed D.W. Stallworth of Marlin as the Clerk of the Court, set the first six cases for submission on the first Thursday in October, and adjourned until the first Monday in October 1923.

Governor Pat M. Neff originally tendered the appointment of Chief Justice to District Judge W.C. Davis of Brazos County. Judge Davis, however, visited Waco to look the situation over, returned to Bryan, and declined the appointment. Meanwhile, Associate Justice Robertson, who never moved to Waco from Meridian, decided he would rather stay in Meridian and resigned on September 30, 1923. J.W. Spivey of Falls County succeeded him as Associate Justice on October 1, 1923. Governor Neff also appointed the Honorable J.N. Gallagher, a member of the Commission of Appeals of the Supreme Court, to serve as the court's first Chief Justice. Chief Justice Gallagher took the oath of office on November 1, 1923.

The enabling legislation provided that "if said court is located in Waco, the citizens thereof will furnish, provide and equip a suitable room or rooms for said court and the members thereof, without cost or expense to the State." The City of Waco initially fulfilled this requirement by contracting the County to furnish the fourth floor of its courthouse. The Waco Law Library Corporation (composed of Waco lawyers) donated its books to become the court's library.

In 1981 the Courts of Civil Appeals were renamed Courts of Appeals and were granted appellate jurisdiction "in all criminal cases except those in which the death penalty has been assessed." The title of Associate Justices was changed in 1985 to Justices. In 1987 the Legislature changed all references to Supreme Judicial Districts to Courts of Appeals Districts. The Tenth Court of Appeals was granted the authority to sit in any county within the Tenth Court of Appeals District in 1991.

Among the Justices of the Tenth Court of Appeals were Associate Justice James P. Alexander (1931-40), who was elected Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court in 1940; Associate Justice Frank Wilson (1959-71), who had taught Practice Court at Baylor Law School since 1947; Chief Justice Frank G. McDonald (1953-88), who held the longest tenure as Chief Justice; and Chief Justice Bob L. Thomas (1982-1996).

The current court consists of Chief Justice Tom Gray of Waco, Justice Rex D. Davis of Waco, and Justice Al Scoggins of Ennis. Chief Justice Gray, who was elected Justice in 1998, had previously served as municipal judge of Rice and practiced in Central and East Texas before joining the Court. He received a BBA, cum laude, from Sam Houston State University in 1978, an MBA from Texas A&M University in 1979 and his JD degree, cum laude, from Baylor University School of Law in 1985. He was appointed Chief Justice in December 2003, elected in 2004 for the unexpired term of former Chief Justice Davis, and reelected to a full term in 2006. Justice Davis initially came to the Tenth Court in May, 1996 and served as Chief Justice from 1996 to 2003. He did his undergraduate work at Temple College and the University of Texas and earned his JD degree cum laude from Baylor University School of Law. In 2008 he was elected to a 6 year term as Justice. Justice Davis has been the past president of the Waco-McLennan County Bar Association. He is a Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation and Bar Member, College of the State Bar of Texas and has been a Lecturer at the Baylor Law School for 12 years. Justice Scoggins was elected in 2010 to a 6 year term as Justice on the Court after serving for more than 26 years as a trial judge in Ellis County beginning at age 28. He received a BBA degree in Accounting from Baylor University in 1977 and his JD degree from Baylor University School of Law in 1979.

Justices of the Tenth Court of Appeals

Chief Justices

Jesse N. Gallagher – 11/1/1923 to 12/31/1940

Ben H. Rice, Jr. – 01/1/1941 to 10/15/1945

Giles P. Lester – 10/18/1945 to 12/31/1952

Frank G. McDonald – 01/1/1953 to 12/31/1988

Bob L. Thomas – 01/01/1989 to 02/20/1996

Rex D. Davis – 05/31/1996 to 8/4/2003

Tom Gray – 12/10/2003 to present

Justices – Place 2

James M. Robertson – 06/30/1923 to 09/30/1923

John W. Spivey – 10/01/1923 to 12/31/1924

J.A. Stanford – 01/1/1925 to 12/31/1930

James P. Alexander – 01/1/1931 to 12/31/1940

Joseph W. Hale – 01/1/1941 to 04/15/1959

Frank M. Wilson – 04/16/1959 to 04/24/1971

John A. James, Jr. – 05/25/1971 to 3/31/1982

George Chase – 04/1/1982 to 12/14/1982

Bob L. Thomas – 12/15/1982 to 12/31/1988

Terry Means – 01/1/1989 to 12/31/1990

Bill Vance – 01/1/1991 to 12/31/2008

Rex D. Davis – 01/01/2009 to present

Justices – Place 3

George W. Barcus – 6/30/1923 to12/31/1932

J.A. Stanford – 01/1/1933 to 12/31/1937

Ballard W. George –7/15/1937 to11/15/1939

Jake Tirey – 11/21/1939 to 12/31/1968

Vic Hall – 01/1/1969 to 11/30/1990

Bobby L. Cummings – 12/1/1990 to 12/31/1998

Tom Gray – 01/1/1999 to 12/9/2003

Felipe Reyna – 01/5/2004 to 12/31/2010

Al Scoggins – 01/01/2011 to present