Louisiana Courts are composed of different levels of courts that resolve civil and criminal cases by interpreting and applying the state’s constitutional law. The judicial branch works in tandem with the state's executive and legislative branches. Louisiana’s highest court is the Supreme Court, which sets the pace for other courts in the state. The state has five Courts of Appeal, 43 District Courts, five Family, and Juvenile Courts, 48 City Courts, three Parish Courts, about 250 Mayors Courts, and 390 Justices of the Peace.
The Supreme Court has the final word on matters relating to the state’s constitution and has appellate jurisdiction over cases heard in lower courts in the state. Appeal cases from the Courts of Appeals are sometimes transferred to the Supreme Court for review, while certain cases can only be reviewed by the Supreme Court, hence, bypassing the Courts of Appeals. Examples of such cases are cases involving the capital penalty and questions of law. The Supreme Court comprises seven supreme court justices, including one chief justice.
The second group of appellate courts in Louisiana are the five Circuit Courts of Appeal, divided into at least three districts. However, this is subject to change by the legislature with a two-thirds vote of each house. The Circuit Courts of Appeal hear appeals on civil and criminal cases from the District Courts, Family or Juvenile Courts, City Courts, and Parish Courts. The Louisiana Circuit Courts of Appeal has 53 judges elected in partisan elections to serve 10-year terms. The judges sit in panels of at least three; a majority of a panel must concur to decide on a case.
Most civil and criminal cases originate at the Louisiana District Courts. There are 40 judicial districts in Louisiana, each representing specific parishes assigned to it. Most of these District Courts comprise more than one parish. Each of the 63 parishes except for Orleans Parish has a district court domiciled at its parish seat.
The state's major courts of limited jurisdiction are the City Courts with jurisdiction in civil cases, similar to that of the District Courts, ranging from $15,000 to $50,000. City Courts’ criminal jurisdiction is primarily restricted to misdemeanors, but their jurisdiction is concurrent with the District Courts in juvenile cases where separate juvenile courts exist.
Other courts of limited jurisdiction in the state include the Family and Juvenile Courts, Parish Courts, Mayors Courts, and Justices of the Peace Courts. There are also federal appellate courts with jurisdiction to hear appeals from the state supreme court. Only a federal court has jurisdiction over federal cases and matters pertaining to the federal judiciary.
The administrative office of each court is responsible for the generation and dissemination of Louisiana court records which provide an official account of each judicial proceeding.
What is the Louisiana Supreme Court?
The Louisiana Supreme Court is the state’s last resort court and has the final say in matters regarding the state’s constitutional law. The court comprises seven justices elected from six districts across Louisiana to serve 10-year terms. Among the justices, one is assigned as the chief justice, who is the main administrative officer of the judicial system. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over cases within its jurisdiction, including appellate cases outside the jurisdiction of the state’s Courts of Appeals. These include cases where a law or ordinance has been declared unconstitutional and capital cases where the death penalty has been ruled.
The court also has exclusive original jurisdiction to take disciplinary actions against lawyers, make recommendations to the judiciary commission for the discipline of judges, and fact questions relating to the court’s appellate jurisdiction.
The Supreme Court can assign a sitting or retired judge to any court and establish procedural and administrative rules that agree with the law. The Supreme Court can provide by rule for attorneys’ appointments as temporary or ad hoc judges of parish, city, traffic, municipal, juvenile or family courts. It reviews applications for writs to appeal in individual cases and other criminal cases.
Louisiana Courts of Appeals
The Louisiana Courts of Appeals is authorized to supervise the affairs of each court originating within its circuit. It is the intermediate appellate court in Louisiana. It hears appeals from lower courts within its circuit on all civil matters, all matters appealed from Family and Juvenile Courts, and all criminal cases that may be tried by a jury, excluding cases within the exclusive appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court or the District Courts. The five Circuit Courts of Appeals in Louisiana include:
The First Circuit Court of Appeal - The First Circuit is composed of 12 judges and has jurisdiction over sixteen parishes in Southeastern Louisiana, including Ascension, Assumption, East Feliciana, West Feliciana, East Baton Rouge, West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Lafourche, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, and Washington. The contact information of the First Circuit Courthouse is as follows:
Court of Appeal, First Circuit
1600 North Third Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802
Phone: (225) 382-3000
Fax: (225) 382-3010
The Second Circuit Court of Appeal -The Second Circuit is composed of nine judges, elected from three election districts in Louisiana’s 20 northernmost parishes.
- Election District One consists of Ouachita, Morehouse, Richland, Franklin, East Carroll, West Carroll, Madison, and Tensas.
- Election District Two consists of the nine parishes between Shreveport and Monroe, including Bossier, Webster, Claiborne, Bienville, Union, Lincoln, Jackson, Caldwell, and Winn.
- Election District Three comprises the parishes of Caddo, DeSoto, and Red River.
Election Districts One and Three contain a sub-district. The contact information of the First Circuit Courthouse is as follows:
30 Fannin Street
Shreveport, LA 71101
Phone: (318) 227-3700
Fax: (318) 227-3735
Office Hours: 8:30 am- 4:45 pm, Monday through Friday
The Third Circuit Court of Appeal - This is the largest among the five Circuit Courts of Appeal in Louisiana. Its geographical jurisdiction covers 21 parishes in the southwest and central Louisiana. The parishes include Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Catahoula, Concordia, Evangeline, Grant, Iberia, Jefferson Davis, Lafayette, LaSalle, Natchitoches, Rapides, Sabine, St. Landry, St. Martin, Vernon, and Vermilion. There are 12 judges, and the court is located at:
Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal
1000 Main Street
Lake Charles, LA 70615
Phone: (337) 433-9403
Fax: (337) 491-2590
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal - This Court of Appeal has 12 judges and covers the parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines. Its contact information is as follows:
3rd Floor, 400 Royal
Street New Orleans, LA 70130
Phone: (504) 412-6001
Facsimile: (504) 412-6019
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal - It covers the parishes of Jefferson, St. Charles, St. James, and St. John the Baptist. Its contact information is as follows:
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal
101 Derbigny Street
Gretna, LA 70053
Office hours: Monday to Friday 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Louisiana District Courts
Louisiana District Courts are also referred to as Louisiana's trial courts of general jurisdiction. The 40 District Courts, excluding Orleans, have 170 district judges elected to six-year terms. The District Court is divided into civil and criminal district courts. The Orleans District Court has a Civil District Court with 14 judges and a Criminal District Court with ten judges and one magistrate judge, each elected to terms of six years.
The District Courts have jurisdiction over all matters within their territorial limits. However, in Orleans, and in the 1st, 19th, and 24th judicial districts, Family and Juvenile Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over specific types of cases. Also, in Orleans Parish, municipal ordinance violations are tried by the municipal and traffic courts. In civil cases, District Courts’ jurisdiction extends up to $2,000 in areas where Justices of the Peace function, and from $5,000 to $25,000 when their territorial jurisdiction is similar to that of a City Court.
Furthermore, the District Courts exercise appellate jurisdiction over criminal cases that City, Municipal, Traffic, and Mayor's court preside over. However, this does not include cases in City, Parish, and Municipal Courts that are tried under a state statute, where the case is appealed to the applicable Court of Appeal. District courts also have appellate jurisdiction over Justices of the Peace Courts, where no parish court exists.
Louisiana Family and Juvenile Courts
These courts include the Family Court of East Baton Rouge and the Juvenile Courts of Orleans, East Baton Rouge, Caddo, and Jefferson Parishes. These courts have exclusive original jurisdiction over particular types of cases, that in other districts, are handled by District Courts or District, Parish and City Courts concurrently. Juvenile and Family Court judges possess the same qualifications and serve the same term as District Court judges. However, in Orleans Parish, the term for a Juvenile Court judge is eight years.
The Juvenile Courts have exclusive original jurisdiction over various types of cases involving children, such as delinquency cases involving persons below 21 years old who commit delinquent acts before clocking 17 years old. Exceptions to this include cases where children who have reached the age of 15 are indicted for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, or aggravated rape. These cases are transferred to the applicable court exercising criminal jurisdiction over the charged offenses.
Furthermore, Juvenile Courts also have original jurisdiction of all adoption proceedings involving unemancipated minors under 17 years old. The Parish of East Baton Rouge Family Court has exclusive jurisdiction for cases like divorce, annulment of marriage, spousal and child support, establishment and repudiation of the paternity of children, and custody and visitation of children.
Louisiana City and Parish Courts
City and Parish Courts have similar jurisdiction. The Uniform Parish Court Jurisdiction and Procedure Act codified in R.S. 13:1441 et seq defines the Parish Courts’ jurisdiction. The court has original jurisdiction identical to that of the District Courts over criminal offenses punishable by a $1,000 fine or less, imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. The Parish Courts also have civil jurisdiction concurrent with district courts in cases up to $20,000.
In Louisiana, there are 46 City Courts outside of Orleans Parish. These courts have a total of 56 judges elected for six-year terms. City Court judges are elected for six-year terms and have the same qualifications as district judges. In Orleans Parish, the City Court is divided into three, each having four judges. The divisions include:
- First and second City Courts, which exercise civil jurisdiction
- A Municipal Court, which handles only misdemeanor cases
- A Traffic Court, which handles traffic-related offenses.
City courts have jurisdiction over the following:
- Criminal offenses not punishable by hard labor, including violations of parish and city ordinances, state DWI cases, peace bonds, and preliminary examinations in non-capital cases; and
- Civil cases where the amount in dispute, or the property’s value in question, is between $15,000 and $50,000, excluding matters where Parish Courts have no jurisdiction. This is with the exception of curatorship, tutorship, and emancipation, and partition proceedings.
City Courts also have juvenile jurisdiction, except where separate Juvenile Courts with exclusive original juvenile jurisdiction have been established. City Courts also have small claims divisions.
Louisiana Justices of Peace Courts
The Justices of the peace no longer exist in areas where City Courts have been established; however, it presides over claims and disputes involving $5000 or less in areas where it exists.
Louisiana Mayor’s Courts
There are about 250 Mayor's Courts operating in towns and villages across Louisiana. These Courts hear cases relating to traffic violations.
What are Appeals and Court Limits in Louisiana?
An appeal involves reviewing a case solely based on the records that existed in a lower court during initial case hearings. This also includes the appellant and appellee's written briefs being heard to determine if any mistakes of the law were made during the court’s proceedings. An appeal is not a new trial. The Court of Appeal will not permit the parties to the case to bring before the court any discovery, call witnesses, or offer any evidence that was not initially presented at the lower court during the case hearings.
The Court of Appeal decides appeals and writ applications. In civil cases the Courts of Appeal has appellate jurisdiction to review final appellate orders issued by a trial judge, a worker’s compensation judge and decisions by a civil service commission. An order is final if it resolves all the issues, including the attorney’s fees issue. The appellate court may accept a partial final judgment appeal if the trial court has designated it as appealable. A trial court may also appeal an interlocutory ruling.
For a criminal case, the defendant may appeal to the Court of Appeals from a judgment in a case triable by jury, except where capital punishment has been imposed. Cases with capital punishments are transferred to the Supreme Court. The state has the right to appeal in a few cases.
The Appellate Courts time limits include:
- A writ application must be filed within 30 days from the date the ruling was rendered.
- A civil judgment appeal must be filed within ten days from the date of judgment or from when the notice of judgment is served.
- Within seven days after the order of appeal is granted, the trial court clerk shall transmit to the Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court’s judicial administrator the notice of appeal required by the Code of Civil Procedure or the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- Motions to remand or dismiss appeals must be submitted to the court by the clerk without oral argument within ten days following the date of filing. The court may also fix any such motion for oral argument or refer the motion to the argument on the merits according to its discretion. The mover to remand or dismiss may file a brief with the motion, and the opposing party may file an opposition brief within seven days of the filing of the motion.
- The appellant’s brief must be filed within 25 calendar days after the filing of the record in the court, and the brief of the appellee must be filed within 45 calendar days after the filing of the record in the court. If there will be a reply brief, the appellant must file it within ten calendar days after the appellee's brief is filed.
- In cases regulated by the Code of Criminal Procedure, an application for rehearing must be filed with the clerk not more than 14 days after the judgment is rendered. On the other hand, for cases regulated by the Code of Civil Procedure an application for rehearing must be filed with the clerk within 14 days after the notice of the judgment and opinion of the court is received. Note that there will be no extension of time for filing an application for rehearing.
For more details on the appellate procedure in Louisiana, refer to the Uniform Rules Courts of Appeal.
How Do I Find My Case Number in Louisiana?
A case number is defined as a group of numbers and letters that indicates the year a case was filed, the judicial office where it was filed, and other unique details of the case. Case numbers make it easy to differentiate a case from another and distinctively reference civil and criminal cases in courts across Louisiana. Being that case numbers are uniquely assigned to court cases, it is pretty easy to search and access case information, once the searcher knows the case number of the case in question. Specific search results are provided when searching with a case number as opposed to when searching for court records with a party’s name. The search results provided in a name search are usually very long as the search portal provides the names of persons with identical names.
Typically, case numbers can be found by conducting a name search with the name of one of the parties involved in a case. Conduct a search with the party’s last name, first name, or company name and provide the optional information required (if need be). Use the information provided on the Louisiana Judicial Branch website to get the contact information and address of the courthouse where the case was filed. On the other hand, visit the Parish Clerk of Court’s office where the case was filed and request the case number of the specific case of interest.
Does Louisiana Hold Remote Trials?
With the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic, court operations have reduced to the barest minimum. The Louisiana Supreme Court’s order instilled on April 22, 2020, provided that all jury trials, civil or criminal, be put on hold from June 30, 2020. Until May 4, 2020, courts were instructed only to conduct in-person proceedings to resolve emergencies that cannot be resolved virtually. However, the courts must continue to take precautionary measures to restrict access to courtrooms and other spaces, ensure social distancing, zero physical contact, and limit in-person court activity to only emergency matters.
Following the increase in the spread of the virus, Louisiana courts are further instructed to follow all guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control, the President, and the Governor. They are also instructed to restrict access to courtrooms and other spaces to the maximum number of people and follow any future guideline or official proclamation that may be issued.
Furthermore, emergency matters will be attended to virtually using video and telephone conferencing. Emergency matters include but are limited to hearings related to:
- Civil protective orders
- Child in need of care proceedings
- Emergency child custody matters
- Proceedings related to emergency interdictions and mental health orders
- Proceedings for children removed from their home by emergency court order
- Temporary restraining orders and mental health orders
- All matters of public health related to the coronavirus pandemic
- Other emergency matters required to protect the health, safety, and freedom of individuals as determined by each court are considered emergency civil matters that should be conducted through video and telephone conferencing.
Also, court proceedings by telephone, video, teleconferencing, or any other virtual means that do not require physical contact may proceed with all the parties and the judge’s consent. Under the April 22, 2020 order, the Louisiana Supreme Court ordered that no party must not unjustifiably hold back permission to allow remote proceedings in civil matters. Also, a trial judge can enforce this order under the authority granted by the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 191 or as expressly provided by law.
It was also provided that courts work with parish clerks to encourage remote case filings, such as U.S. mail, e-filing, email, or facsimile, instead of in-person filings. Records for criminal, juvenile, and civil cases presided over on an emergency or expedited basis shall be kept under the acting judge’s supervision for each action.