The office of District Attorney was first provided for in the Republic if Texas Constitution of 1836. According to an 1840 law passed by Congress of the Republic of Texas, the District Attorney was to be appointed for a two-year term by the president of the Republic with the advice and consent of the Senate. The office was continued by the Texas Constitution of 1845 and was made elective by law in 1850. A constitutional amendment in 1954 extended the term of office to four years. The District Attorney must be a qualified voter, county resident and a licensed attorney, and receives a salary from both the state and county.
The District Attorney is primarily an attorney for the state and attends the state district court, although not exclusively. He or she may represent various state agencies when the Attorney General does not, and may assist in the enforcement of state agency regulations as well as the conduct of state officials. In some counties, the duties of the District Attorney are centered primarily on prosecution of felony criminal offenses; in others, the District Attorney may be responsible for civil suits concerning the state, as well as misdemeanor offenses. The District Attorney also has an advisory function in regard to county and state officials.
The Travis County District Attorney's office investigates and prosecutes crimes related to the operation of the Texas state government. The office also represents the state and victims of crime in the prosecution of felony offenses and juvenile offenses committed in Travis County, as well as the Department of Child and Protective Services in civil suits affecting parental rights. A state-funded division, the Public Integrity Unit, investigates and persecutes crimes related to the operation of state government, motor fuels tax fraud, insurance fraud, and lottery.
Over 20 individuals have served as District Attorney in Travis County. Rosemary Lehmberg, the current District Attorney, is the first woman in to hold the office in Travis County. She was proceeded in office by Ronnie Earle, the longest serving District Attorney in Travis County history, who served for 32 years.