Louisiana Court System

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The judicial wing of the Louisiana government is in charge of dispensing justice in accordance with the state legislation. It comprises of the Supreme Court and tribunals at various levels each with its specific jurisdiction and function. The Louisiana Court system can be segregated into two primary categories that include the appellate court and the trial courts.

The appellate courts

At the appellate level is the Supreme Court and five intermediate tribunals with appellate jurisdiction while at the trial level, there are tribunals that have general, limited and special jurisdiction. The highest judicial entity in the state; the Supreme Court is in charge of considering writs for the tribunals on the lower rungs of the judicial ladder. In contrast, the five intermediate appellate courts hear the caseload of civil and criminal matters coming in from the trial courts.

The trial courts

The district court has general jurisdiction, so with some exceptions, this tribunal has unlimited trial jurisdiction within its geographical limit. Courts with special jurisdiction include those tribunals that hear juvenile and family matters; these courts have original jurisdiction in matters pertaining to juveniles, adoptions and other family cases.

Finally, the principal trial courts of limited jurisdiction are the city courts. These tribunals only hear civil cases where the claim amount is in the range of $5000 to $25,000, and in terms of criminal jurisdiction, these courts are limited to ruling in matters pertaining to misdemeanors.

These limited jurisdiction courts are further divided into criminal and civil tribunals. For instance, in Orleans Parish, the first and second city courts handle civil cases while municipal courts are in charge of criminal matters with the exception of traffic violation cases which are heard by a separate traffic court.

The Parish courts are a relatively recent addition to the state’s judicial system; the first one was created for Jefferson parish in 1964. These tribunals are similar in jurisdiction to city courts. Also included in Louisiana’s judicial makeup are peace courts. These tribunals do not have criminal jurisdiction and their civil jurisdiction is limited to cases in which the claim amount does not go beyond $2000.

The courts of Louisiana

The Supreme Court: The ultimate judicial authority in the state, the Supreme Court of Louisiana is composed of seven justices who are elected for a term of ten years and come from six districts from throughout the state. The chief justice is the principal administrative officer of the state.

The Supreme Court has supervisory jurisdiction over all tribunals that are included in Louisiana’s judicial network. It has criminal, original and appellate jurisdiction and the sole authority when it comes to the appointment of judges to the lower courts.

Courts of Appeal: As their name suggests, these five tribunals receive matters that are sourced from lower courts. The five courts are located at Lake Charles, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Gretna and New Orleans. Together, these tribunals have 52 judges who are elected from districts of the state for a ten year term. These courts have supervisory and appellate jurisdiction.

District courts: These tribunals hear civil and criminal cases as they have general trial jurisdiction. There are 40 district courts in the state and each judicial district has one to three parishes in it. Together these tribunals have 170 district judges who are elected to six year terms. These tribunals have the authority to hear all matters within their territorial limit; they also have general and supervisory jurisdiction over municipal and traffic courts.

Not all parishes have family and juvenile courts; where these tribunals have not been created, the district court also hears special jurisdiction cases.

Parish and city courts: These tribunals hear matters from within their territorial jurisdiction but a Parish court will only handle criminal cases which can be punishable by a fine of $1000 and a prison term of not more than 6 months.

Similarly, these tribunals will only take civil cases where the dispute is over a claim that does not exceed $20,000. In contrast, a city court only has jurisdiction in criminal matters not punishable by hard labor.