Texas Supreme Court advisory

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information
512.463.1441 or click for email
Bill Pugsley, director, Texas Supreme Court Historical Society
512.481.1840 or click for email

For Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Three former chief justices representing Texas Supreme Court history for most of the past 70 years will mark the Court’s 170th anniversary in a ceremony Wednesday.

The date – January 13 – was when Chief Justice Thomas Jefferson Rusk called the first session of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas in 1840.

The 4 p.m. ceremony in the Texas Supreme Court Courtroom also will observe the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society’s 20th anniversary. The society was founded Jan. 13, 1990.

Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson will open the program. Among current and retired judges expected to attend will be former Chief Justices Joe R. Greenhill, who led the Court from 1972 to 1982 and was among its first law clerks in 1939; Jack Pope, who served from 1982 to 1985; and Thomas R. Phillips, who served from 1988 to 2004.

At slightly more than 25 years on the Court, Greenhill was the longest-serving Texas Supreme Court justice. Phillips was the second longest-serving chief justice since statehood, and Pope's 38 years on trial and appellate courts made him the longest-serving judge to sit on the Supreme Court.

State Bar President Roland K. Johnson of Fort Worth will pay tribute to the Texas Supreme Court anniversary and Austin attorney Larry McNeill, president of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, will present the historical society’s remarks.

At the time Rusk opened the first session of the Court in the morning of Jan. 13, the Court included the chief justice and the five district court justices then sitting in courts across the Texas republic. Chief Justice Rusk was actually the third chief justice of the embryonic nation, but the first two left office before the Court was convened.

The Court's January 1840 term lasted two weeks.

The Texas Supreme Court Historical Society filed articles of incorporation with the Texas Secretary of State that were dated Jan. 13, 1990.  Greenhill, Pope and the late Robert Calvert, who was chief justice from 1971 to 1972, signed the document that created the society.

Justice Jack Hightower served as the first president.