Louisiana Supreme Court
The laws of Louisiana and the Supreme Court of Louisiana both have a rich history based in the colonial governments of France and Spain during the early eighteenth century. The current Supreme Court traces its roots back to these beginnings.
Louisiana Supreme Court rulings on ballot measures
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French and Spanish Colonial Government
Under the colonial governments of France and Spain, the courts of Louisiana existed in several different forms. In 1712, a charter granted by France created a Superior Council with executive and judicial function which functioned as a court of last resort in both civil and criminal cases. In 1769, Spain gained control over the Louisiana territory, and the Superior Council was replaced with the Cabildo. The Governor of the territory held the power of having final authority in cases.
American Colonial Government
In 1803, Louisiana became a territory of the United States. In 1804, Congress created a three judge Superior Court for the territory and gave the Legislative Council the power to create other courts. In 1807, the newly elected Legislative Council created courts in each of the territory's nineteen parishes. These courts were courts of general jurisdiction with an appeal lying to the Superior Court.
The Court under the State Government of Louisiana
Constitution of 1812
In the first Constitution for the state of Louisiana, one Supreme Court was created and the Legislature was given the power to create inferior courts. The number of judges was fixed to be not less than three and not more than five who were to be appointed by the Governor. The Court was required to sit in New Orleans and Opelousas.
Constitution of 1845
The 1845 Constitution created a Supreme Court composed of one Chief Justice and three Associate Justices appointed by the Governor to eight year terms. The Court sat in New Orleans.
Constitution of 1852
The 1852 Constitution increased the number of Justices on the Court to five, and all became elected by the people. The Chief Justice was elected at-large by the entire state and the Associate Justices were elected from four districts throughout the state. The Justices served ten year terms.
Constitution of 1864
In 1864, the Justices again became appointed, and their term length was decreased to eight years.
Constitution of 1868
The 1868 Constitution did not change the makeup or terms of the Supreme Court, however, it did change and expand its jurisdiction in civil cases to include nearly all types of cases.
Constitution of 1879
The post-Reconstruction Constitution of 1879 substantially modified te organization of the Louisiana jusdiciary. The Constitution created the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeal, District Courts and Justices of the Peace. The Supreme Court retained five justices, but they were now appointed by the Governor and served twelve year terms. For the first time, the Supreme Court was given supervisory power over the inferior courts.
It also gave more limitations to the opportunity to vote by people of color.
Constitution of 1898
In 1898, the Supreme Court's jurisdiction was further expanded. The Court was given original jurisdiction over the bar. New Orleans was fixed as the seat of the Supreme Court. The Chief Justice was determined by the senior justice in point of serive.
Constitution of 1913
The Constitution of 1913 minorly affected the Court by requiring that the members of the jusdiciary be elected instead of appointed.
Constitution of 1921
In 1921, the Court gained two seats, increasing the number of justices to seven. Due to having a large backlog in its docket, the Court was authorized to sit in panels of three. The Supreme Court was also given the power to remove lower court judges from office.
Constitution of 1974
The current Louisiana Constitution of 1974, as amended in 1980, provides for a Supreme Court composed of a Justice elected from each of seven Supreme Court Districts. The senior justice in point of serive serves as the Chief Justice. The Court has original jurisdiction over matters arising from disciplinary matters involving the bench and bar pursuant to La. Constitution Article V, section 5 (B). The Court has exclusive appellate jurisdiction over any case where a law or ordinance of this state has been declared unconstitutional or when a defendant has been convicted of a capital crime and the death penalty has actually been imposed pursuant to La. Constitution Article V, section 5 (D). The Court has general supervisory and rule making authority over all the lower state courts purusant to La. Constitution Article V, section 5 (A).
Appeals to the Supreme Court of Louisiana under La. Constitution Article V, section 5(D) are taken as a matter of right. All other review of lower courts in the state is obtained by the writ of certiorari process as provided for by Article V, Section 5 (A) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, and Rule X of the Supreme Court Rules.
Current Composition of the Supreme Court of Louisiana
Pascal Calogero Chief Justice of Louisiana
Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr. is from New Orleans, Louisiana, and represents the First Supreme Court District of Louisiana. He obtained his Juris Doctor from Loyola University in 1954. He was first elected to the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice in 1972. On April 9, 1990, Justice Calogero was sworn in as Chief Justice of Louisiana. In 1992, he received a Master of Laws Degree in the Judicial Process from the University of Virginia. During Chief Justice Calogero's tenure on the Court, he has participated in over 6,000 oral arguments and has authored over 1,000 opinions (majority, concurrences, and dissents).
Catherine Kimball-Associate Justice
Justice Victory is from Shreveport, Louisiana, and represents the Second Supreme Court District of Louisiana. Justice Victory earned his Juris Doctor from Tulane University in 1971. He served as a District Judge for the First Judicial District Court of Caddo Parish, Louisiana from 1980 to 1990. In 1991, he served as an Appellate Judge on the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Second Circuit. On January 1, 1995, he took his seat as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Jeannette Theriot Knoll-Associate Justice
Justice Knoll is from Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana and represents the Third Supreme Court District of Louisiana. Justice Knoll earned her Juris Doctor from Loyola University in 1969. In 1982, she was elected as an Appellate Judge of the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Third Circuit. January 1, 1997, Justice Knoll took her seat as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Chet Traylor Associate Justice
Justice Traylor is from Winnsboro, Louisiana and represents the Fourth Supreme Court District of Louisiana. Justice Traylor earned his Juris Doctor from Loyola University New Orleans School of Law in 1974. In 1985, he was elected as a District Judge for the Fifth Judicial District Court. On January 1, 1997, Justice Traylor took his seat as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
Catherine Kimball Associate Justice
Justice Kimball is from Ventress, in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana and represents the Fifth Supreme Court District of Louisiana. Justice Kimball earned her Juris Doctor from Louisiana State University in 1970. In 1982, she was elected as a District Judge of the 18th Judicial District Court where she served until she took her seat as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on January 1, 1992. Assuming Justice Kimball is still on the court, she will become the first female Chief Justice of Louisiana upon the retirement of the Chief Justice.
John WeimerAssociate Justice
Justice Weimer is from Lafourche Parish, Louisiana and represents the Sixth Supreme Court District of Louisiana. Justice Weimer earned his Juris Doctor from Louisiana State University in 1980. In 1995, he was elected District Judge for the 17th Judicial District Court. In 1998 he was elected as an Appellate Judge for the Louisiana Court of Appeal, First Circuit. He served in that capacity until he took his seat as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 2001.
Bernette Johnson Associate Justice
Justice Johnson is from New Orleans, Louisiana and represents the Seventh Supreme Court District of Louisiana. Justice Johnson earned her Juris Doctor from Louisiana State University in 1969. In 1984 she was elected District Judge for the Civil District Court for Orleans Parish. In 1994, she was elected Chief Judge of that Court. Justice Johnson took her seat as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1998. She is the first African-American woman to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Seniority of Justices
- 1. Pascal Calogero (1973)
- 2. Catherine Kimball (1992)
- 3. Jeffert Victory (1995)
- 4. Chet Traylor (1997)
- 5. Jeannette Theriot Knoll (1997)
- 6. Bernette Johnson (1998)
- 7. John Weimer (2001)