Commissioners' Court
Commissioners' Court is the governing body of county government
Local government in the United States
Local government in the United States is generally structured in accordance with the laws of the various individual states. Typically each state has at least two separate tiers: counties and municipalities. Some states have their counties divided into townships...

 in several US states, including Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 and Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

. It is similar in function to a board of county commission
County commission
A county commission is a group of elected officials charged with administering the county government in local government in some states of the United States. County commissions are usually made up of three or more individuals...


The principal functions of the commissioners' court are legislative and executive. Although referred to as a court, commissioners' courts generally exercise only limited judicial powers. These include the ability to compel testimony under oath, the ability to issue citations for contempt, and the ability to make findings of fact.

In Texas

The governing body of each of Texas' 254 counties is the commissioners' court. In Texas, the court has five members: the county judge, and four commissioners.

A sixth official, the county clerk, is an ex-officio member of the court.

In most instances, a simple majority of court members is sufficient to take action. Three voting members of the court constitute a quorum
A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group...

. The commissioners' court operates similar to the "weak" mayor-council system; the county judge has no veto power over the court and votes along with the other commissioners.

Counties are constitutional subdivisions
Administrative division
An administrative division, subnational entity, or country subdivision is a portion of a country or other political division, established for the purpose of government. Administrative divisions are each granted a certain degree of autonomy, and are required to manage themselves through their own...

 of the state, and as a principal institution of county government, the courts role combines elements of judicial, legislative and executive functions. Other institutions of county government include independent, elected and appointed officials, such as the sheriff, and independent boards, such as the board of judges.

In Texas, the relationship between institutions of county government is designed to be independent and adversarial. In this framework, the principal power of the court is the power of the purse. Each year, the court adopts the county tax rate and the county budget, setting the salary and budget for independent elected officials, as well as outlining expenditures for departments under the direct control of the court. As the administrative head of county government, the court has the authority enact county-wide policies, and to the extent provided by law, to enact legislation in the form of court orders. The court also exercises varying degrees of oversight over subsidiary county boards and commissioners, which may differ from county to county, but which commonly include drainage districts, irrigation districts, housing authorities and the like. In some instances, the court may also serve as the board of directors for these special districts or authorities, as well as fulfill the role of county school board.

Each voting member of the court has one vote. The county judge serves as the presiding officer of the commissioners' court, while the county clerk is charged with keeping the minutes of the court, and attesting any actions it make take. State law requires that, except in cases of emergency, that an agenda of the items to be considered by the court be posted at least 72 hours prior to its meeting. Among counties, the process for placing items on the agenda, and posting it, varies widely, with the task most often falling to the county judge, county clerk or a specially-appointed court clerk.

Additionally, state law provides that the court must designate its 'term,' or the time, place and interval at which it will sit, at the beginning of each fiscal year. Any meeting that is not held according to the term is considered a special meeting. Legal precedent also provides that no action taken by the court may bind the county beyond the term of the court.

In addition to their roles on the court, the county judge, county commissioners and county clerk each have independent roles to play within county government.

The county judge serves as the chief administrator of the county, and as the presiding judge for justice and county courts. In some counties, he exercises judicial functions as a probate and/or county court judge. Even in cases where the county judge does not conduct judicial functions, he retains the power to conduct marriages and may also be called upon to conduct administrative hearings, such as those pertaining to liquor license applications.

Additionally, the county judge is a statutory member of several important boards, including the juvenile board and the county election commission. Finally, the judge is designated by a long-standing executive order of the governor, pursuant to the Texas Disaster Act of 1974, as the executive officer for civil defense
Civil defense
Civil defense, civil defence or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation, and recovery...

 within the county. The county judge is elected county wide to a four-year term coinciding with the term of the governor.

Each of the four county commissioners represents an area of the county, or precinct, that is designed to be roughly proportional in population to each of the other such areas. In addition to serving as a voting member of the court, county commissioners are often charged with overseeing county roads and bridges within their precinct, and are sometimes also responsible for solid waste collection, park
A park is a protected area, in its natural or semi-natural state, or planted, and set aside for human recreation and enjoyment, or for the protection of wildlife or natural habitats. It may consist of rocks, soil, water, flora and fauna and grass areas. Many parks are legally protected by...

s and other services within the precinct. In rural counties, the role of the county commissioner outside of the commissioners' court tends to be quite substantial, while in urban counties, the delivery of county services is frequently consolidated in county-wide departments, with the bulk of a commissioner's time being devoted to the commissioners' court. The commissioners are elected to staggered, four-year terms, with two taking office every other year, and are elected by the votes of the precinct represented.

The county clerk is responsible for recording legal instruments, including birth certificate
Birth certificate
A birth certificate is a vital record that documents the birth of a child. The term "birth certificate" can refer to either the original document certifying the circumstances of the birth or to a certified copy of or representation of the ensuing registration of that birth...

s, marriage license
Marriage license
A marriage license is a document issued, either by a church or state authority, authorizing a couple to marry. The procedure for obtaining a license varies between countries and has changed over time...

s, deed
A deed is any legal instrument in writing which passes, or affirms or confirms something which passes, an interest, right, or property and that is signed, attested, delivered, and in some jurisdictions sealed...

s and titles
Title (property)
Title is a legal term for a bundle of rights in a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or an equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document that serves as evidence of ownership...

, and for keeping the records of county and justice courts. The county clerk is also a statutory member of certain boards and commissions, such as the elections commission, and may also serve in other capacities as provided by law or local practice. He or she is elected county-wide to a four-year term.

In Missouri

The county commissioners' court in Missouri consists of three voting members: One chief county judge, elected county-wide, and two county judges, elected in districts.

In many counties, the sub-county judges are responsible for carrying out functions of county government, such as road projects, within their districts.

US President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States . As President Franklin D. Roosevelt's third vice president and the 34th Vice President of the United States , he succeeded to the presidency on April 12, 1945, when President Roosevelt died less than three months after beginning his...

, began his political career as a county judge in Missouri.
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