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Courts of inquiry are unique to Texas, although the U. Although the law would allow a district judge to request an inquiry in any instance where state laws may have been broken, Texas judges have in recent years used this obscure and once seldom-used provision to investigate possible wrongful convictions.

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Northern District of Texas

So why request a court of inquiry instead of going to the police or taking a more typical route through the legal system? Courts of inquiry can also review evidence that would not be admitted to other courts, such as hearsay.


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Courts of inquiry have a controversial history in Texas. As a result, the Texas Legislature amended the law in to ensure that all witnesses are entitled to the same protections as those in felony prosecutions, and to allow only district judges to request courts of inquiry. California, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals holds that courts of inquiry are not unconstitutional because under the 14th Amendment, state courts are not required to initiate criminal prosecutions by grand jury indictment.

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Importantly, courts of inquiry do not have the power to sentence those whom they investigate. If the judge in a court of inquiry finds there is reason to believe a crime was committed, the case is referred to a higher court for prosecution. Lott ordered Anderson to provide the court with police reports he had gathered on the case. If you know the district or circuit in which the case is filed, you may search that court directly.


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  • PACER hosts millions of case file documents and docket information for all district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts. These are available immediately after they have been electronically filed.


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    • Some case information is protected. Certain personal identifiers are removed or redacted before the record becomes public, including Social Security number, financial account numbers, the name of a minor, date of birth, and home addresses in a criminal case. In addition, some documents may be unavailable to the general public, including: Pre bankruptcy case documents.

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