The Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Council of Chief Justices of the fourteen Texas Courts of Appeals, the Office of Court Administration, the Texas Bar Foundation, and the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society are working to develop plans for a Judicial Civics and Education Center to be located in the entry-level corridor of the Tom C. Clark Building, which joins the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals with the Third Court of Appeals and the Price Daniel Building. The space allotted for the Center is approximately 2,200 square feet.
The Center will welcome visitors and meeting attendees, and consist of informative and interactive civic displays and exhibits designed to educate the public on the role of the judiciary in Texas government, both past and present. The Center will also serve as an educational destination on the typical Capitol complex tour, teaching visitors Texas’ legal history and the importance of an independent judiciary. The Center will provide both a historical context and an interactive learning experience that will help visitors deepen their understanding of the judiciary and the role of the judicial branch in a free government and encourage greater overall civic participation. The exhibits will teach the unique history of the Texas judiciary in comparison to United States history, diversity in Texas and the role of women and minorities in shaping its judicial system. Exhibits may also include oral histories from prominent judges, interactive civics education describing how cases are decided based on relevant law, how a case moves through the state appellate process, and how judges are elected in the state. There may also be room for play, from a “dress up” area with judges’ robes to a portal for civics educational games through Sandra Day O’Connor’s website, iCivics. The Center will also contain conference space for lectures and forums.
Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has said of the Center, it “will be a game changer for the Texas Judiciary. It will tell the fascinating judicial history of Texas through compelling stories.” Texas Courts Administrator David Slayton added, “numerous studies have shown that a lack of civic education is a growing problem in our country. Having a proper understanding of the judicial branch and its role in government is essential to enhancing the administration of justice.”