20 Things You Didn’t Know about the Louisiana Supreme Court

Louisiana Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Louisiana is the highest in the state. The justices hear appeals as the “court of last resort” for the State of Louisiana. The Louisiana Supreme Court has a long and storied history that law students and residents of Louisiana may find interesting. To help you increase your knowledge base, here are twenty things you probably didn’t know about the Louisiana Supreme Court.

1. The Louisiana Supreme Court is over 200 years old

Wikipedia confirms that the Louisiana Supreme Court emerged in 1813. The court is entering into its two-hundred and ninth year as the highest appeals court in the state. It is a longstanding establishment in the judicial system. Although not the oldest judicial appeals body at the state level, it is among them. This establishment came into existence before many other state supreme courts in the union.

2. The Louisiana Supreme Court history goes back to the colonial governments

The present Supreme Court of Louisiana has a rich history that goes back to an era when the state was just a territory. Its roots are traceable to the colonial governments established by Spain and France of the 18th-century. France and Spain had interests in this part of America when the states were colonies and territories, still under formation. It was a time of expansion and deal-making for land rights in the region.

3. The first court systems in Louisiana were diverse

The State of Louisiana has a unique history that sets it apart from most other states. The courts were set up differently in Louisiana and existed in various forms. The first judicial system under France and Spain’s colonial governments was a Superior Council with judicial and executive function, serving as the legal decision-making body of last resort in criminal and civil cases, established in 1712 under a charter granted by France. It was a forerunner of the modern Louisiana Supreme Court.

4. Louisiana’s early court system moved between France and Spain

Ongoing struggles over which country had a claim on the Louisiana territory affected the court system in Louisiana. The territory was called New France until 1769. At that time, the territory’s name changed to New Spain. The Spanish government replaced the former French Superior Council with Spain’s Cabildo. The power of final authority existed within the colonial Governor for legal cases during this era.

5. Courts in Louisiana’s Florida Parishes were separate

In the early years of the judicial system for Louisiana, regions east of the Mississippi River had a succession of distinct colonial governments that were separate, starting in 1763. The only exception was New Orleans. The area known as the Florida Parishes would see governments come and go as legal rights to the territory were in dispute. It didn’t stop the judicial system from continuing its evolution. Law existed in the region, even though it was constantly changing. Before the 1800s, there was a lack of cohesion within the judicial system.

6. The Louisiana judicial system changed in 1803

1803 is an important year in the history of the Louisiana judicial system. This is the year that Louisiana became a territory of the United States. It was no longer a political battleground for France and Spain. This conflict affected the operation of the judicial system in the region. It now fell under the auspices of the United States of America. The new government named the region the Territory of Orleans.

7. The United States created its first territorial court in 1804

The first territorial court for the Territory of Orleans emerged in 1804. Congress established the organization as a Superior Court comprised of three judges. The Legislative Council gained authority to create other courts for the new territory. The Orleans Territory got divided into nineteen parishes. In 1807, each parish established a court. The court had jurisdiction over the parishes, including an appeal applying to the Superior Court. The Legislative Council operated as a newly elected political body within the government, but it functioned efficiently. It was instrumental in establishing a unified judicial system.

8. The Constitution of 1812 led to the founding of the Louisiana Supreme Court

The first Constitution for the State of Louisiana was drafted and ratified in the year 1812. The Constitution was a legally binding document and was the first for the new state. The decree granted the power to the Legislature to create one Supreme Court. The Legislature also had the authority to establish lower courts beneath the court of last resort. The first supreme court for the land was still in its developmental stages. The number of justices was set at the requirement of not less than three, but no more than five.

9. The first justices for the Louisiana Supreme Court were appointed

The Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Society is an organization that is committed to the preservation and retelling of the history of the Louisiana Supreme Court. The system for placing justices on the first Louisiana Supreme court was different than the modern approach. After the Constitution of 1812, justices were appointed by the Governor. The seats were not elected positions and the public had no vote or say about who filled the positions. The first supreme court convened in Opelousas and New Orleans.

10. The Constitution of 1845 changed the judicial system again

The supreme court for the state of Louisiana continued to evolve through the decades and it changed with the passing of each new state constitution. The most eventful change with the constitution of 1845 was the development of a Supreme Court with one Chief Justice. The Governor appointed three Associate Justices for a total of four seats on the court. Each justice was appointed to serve eight-year terms and the Court sat in the city of New Orleans.

11. The Louisiana Supreme Court has a historical society

The Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Society is proud of the history of the state and the development of its judicial system. It is committed to the preservation of the history and retelling of its story. The organization has undertaken several major projects to fulfill its mission of educating the public about the long and storied past of the court. The first project the Historical Society tackled was the acquisition of the Louisiana Supreme Court building at 400 Royal Street. The building was old and in need of repair. It was occupied by the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. There were many delays including acquisition, moving the previous tenants out, and removing the asbestos before repairs and restoration could begin. The group successfully negotiated with the Governor

12. An art collection is dedicated to the Louisiana Supreme Court

Various Supreme Court Justices have come and gone since the first official court was held. Their memories are preserved in the Supreme court Portrait Collection. The portrait collection was begun in the 1870s during the Manning Court and was carried forward through Chief Justice Edward Bermudez, to preserve this part of the history of the court. The portraits of members of the bar and distinguished judges who passed away are on public display. They occupy the first through the fourth floors of the building at 400 Royal Street with Chief Justices of the Supreme Court placed on the first floor of the Supreme Court Museum.

13. Visitors are welcome at the Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson Supreme Court Museum

Law students, residents of the local community, and visitors to the city are welcome to tour the Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson Supreme Court Museum. It’s found on the first floor of the Louisiana Supreme Court Building at 400 Royal Street. The hours are Monday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm. You are welcome to walk around and take in the rich and storied history of the Louisiana Supreme Court through the art and souvenir collections displayed with information that tells of their significance. Here you will find display cases with artifacts and information about Women in Law with timelines, and exhibits that highlight the life and career of Bernette Joshua Johnson, a notable Chief Justice for the State of Louisiana Supreme Court. She was the second female chief justice and the first African-Amerian woman to serve on the court.

14. The Supreme Court Building welcomes tour groups

As an ongoing part of its commitment to community service and education, the Supreme Court is happy to arrange group tours. You can schedule an educational guided tour by contacting the Community Relations department of the Louisiana Supreme Court to arrange for a date and time for the tour. Visitors must be prepared to pass through security before being allowed entry into the tour. The court tours are ideal for public and private school groups and civic-minded organization members.

15. The Louisiana Supreme Court offer lectures and public programs

The Louisiana Supreme Court maintains a commitment to the people of Louisiana and its visitors. Those interested in learning more about the supreme court or other branches of the judicial system may sign up for various lectures and continuing legal education programs through the Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Society. They’re happy to accommodate law students or others interested in learning more about the judicial system.

16. The Louisiana Supreme Court is one of five courts of appeal

The Louisiana Supreme Court explains that five courts of appeal exist in the Louisiana judicial system. the Louisiana Supreme Court is the highest appeals court in the land. The judicial system also includes forty-three district courts, forty-nine city courts, three parish courts, and five juvenile courts. The intermediate appeals courts exist between the supreme court and the District Court to guarantee citizens the right to review by a higher court.

17. The modern court was established by the Constitution of 1974 but it changed

Change seems to be the one constant through the years as the Supreme Court of Louisiana has gone through its evolution. The Constitution of 1974 changed the composition of the supreme court to seven justices. Each justice is elected from the various districts throughout the state of Louisiana. The districts of the Supreme Court were reapportioned in 2000, into seven districts. Each district elects one justice to the Supreme Court.

18. The length of terms has also evolved

Through the years, the term limits for the justices serving on the Louisiana Supreme Court have changed. The current limit on a term is ten years for the office of justice. If a seat is vacated during the middle of a term the Governor may appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of the term. The incumbent must run again if he or she wishes to retain the seat, in the next general election.

19. John L. Weimer is the current Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court

The current Chief Justice of the Lousiana Supreme Court is John L. Wiemer of the Sixth District. Justice William J. Crain serves from the First District. The justice elected for the Second District is Scott J. Crichton. The Third District elected justice is James T. Genovese. Jay B. McCallum is justice elected for the Fourth District. The Fifth District elected Jefferson D. Hughes II, and the Seventh District elected justice is Piper D. Griffin.

20. Louisiana Supreme Court Justices must meet established requirements

Not just anyone can become a justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court. Candidates for election or appointment must first qualify with at least ten years admitted to practicing law in the state of Louisiana, and living in the respective district, circuit, or parish for a minimum of one year before the election. Ballotpedia explains that candidates must be under the age of 70, at the time of election. If a justice turns 70 in office, they are allowed to serve out the remainder of the term but must retire thereafter. The Chief Justice is chosen by seniority. The justice who has served on the court for the longest is appointed chief justice. Upon the retirement of the chief justice, the next person in line with the most seniority assumes the post.

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