|Louisiana Supreme Court|
Seal of the Louisiana Supreme Court
|Location||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Authorized by||Constitution of Louisiana|
|Appeals to||Supreme Court of the United States|
|Number of positions||7|
|Currently||Bernette Joshua Johnson|
|Since||February 1, 2013|
|Lead position ends||December 31, 2020|
politics and government of
The Supreme Court of Louisiana is the highest court and court of last resort in the U.S. state of Louisiana. The modern Supreme Court, composed of seven justices, meets in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
The Supreme Court, and Louisiana state law, are historically based in the colonial governments of France and Spain during the 18th century. The current Supreme Court traces its roots back to these beginnings.
Under the colonial governments of France and Spain, the courts of what is now 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, Louisiana (New France) became Louisiana (New Spain), and the Superior Council was replaced with the Cabildo. The colonial Governor held the power of final authority in legal cases.
Note that the part of today's Louisiana known as the Florida Parishes, the part east of the Mississippi River excepting New Orleans, had a separate and distinct succession of colonial governments beginning in 1763.
In 1803, Louisiana became a territory of the United States, known as the Territory of Orleans. 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 applying to the Superior Court.
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.
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.
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.
In 1864, the Justices again became appointed, and their term length was decreased to eight years.
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.
The post-Reconstruction Constitution of 1879 substantially modified the organization of the Louisiana judiciary. 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.
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 service.
The Constitution of 1913 affected the Court by requiring that the members of the judiciary be elected instead of appointed.
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.
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, serving a term of 10 years. The Chief Justice is not elected separately from the other justices (as is the case in other states, such as with the Texas Supreme Court); under Article V, Section 6, the "judge oldest in point of service on the supreme court" (i.e., the justice with the longest tenure on the Court) 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 (i.e. all intermediate courts of appeals are bypassed) over 1) any case where a law or ordinance of this state has been declared unconstitutional, or 2) 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). In all other matters, the Court has regular appellate jurisdiction from the lower Courts of Appeals.
Death penalty appeals are automatic as a matter of right. All other appellate review of lower court decisions 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.
The Court has general supervisory and rule making authority over all the lower state courts pursuant to La. Constitution Article V, section 5 (A).
On certain questions involving the persons who serve as judges at any level under the constitution of the State of Louisiana, the Louisiana Supreme Court may entertain recommendations from the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana, a nine-member advisory body.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has seven election districts with each district electing one justice.
The districts are composed as follows:
Fourth District: Bienville Parish, Caldwell Parish, Catahoula Parish, Claiborne Parish, Concordia Parish, East Carroll Parish, Franklin Parish, Grant Parish, Jackson Parish, LaSalle Parish, Lincoln Parish, Madison Parish, Morehouse Parish, Ouachita Parish, Rapides Parish, Richland Parish, Tensas Parish, Union Parish, West Carroll Parish, Winn Parish
Sixth District: Assumption Parish, Iberia Parish, Parts of Jefferson Parish, Lafourche Parish, Plaquemines Parish, St. Bernard Parish, St. Charles Parish, St. James Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish, St. Martin Parish, St. Mary Parish, Terrebonne Parish
Scott Crichton was unopposed to succeed Justice Jeffrey P. Victory, who did not seek reelection. Both are Republicans from Shreveport in the Second Supreme Court District. Judge 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 from 1980 to 1990. In 1991, he served as an Appellate Judge on the Louisiana Court of Appeal, Second Circuit. On January 1, 1995, Victory took his seat as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; his retirement was effective on December 31, 2014.
Upon the retirement of Republican Justice Chet D. Traylor of Winnsboro in Franklin Parish, representing the Fourth Louisiana Supreme Court District, voters in a special election on October 17, 2009, chose another Republican, a state district court judge from Monroe, Marcus R. Clark (born 1956), to fill the position. Clark defeated fellow Republican Jimmy Faircloth of Alexandria and Pineville, who carried the support of Governor Bobby Jindal. Faircloth had been executive counsel to Jindal prior to the Supreme Court campaign.
Justice Jefferson D. Hughes, III, a Democrat-turned-Republican, represents the Fifth Supreme Court District of Louisiana. With the retirement of Chief Justice Catherine D. Kimball in January 2013 and the retirement of former Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr. at the end of 2008, Justice Hughes was appointed Pro Tempore to fill in until an election could be held. Justice Hughes won the election to the Louisiana Fifth Supreme Court District on December 8, 2012, over the Democrat John Michael Guidry, an African American circuit court judge, who had led in the first round of balloting on November 6. Hughes was a judge on the 21st Judicial District Court from 1990 to 2005, and later a judge on the First Circuit Court of Appeals from 2005 to 2013. He earned his Juris Doctor from Louisiana State University Law School.
Justice Weimer (No Party) 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.
Justice Johnson  is from New Orleans and represents the Seventh Supreme Court District of Louisiana. Justice Johnson earned her Juris Doctor from the Louisiana State University Law Center in Baton Rouge 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 began serving on the Supreme Court in 1994. She was not elected but appointed to the post after the U.S. government sued the state to insure that at least one seat on the Supreme Court be held by a minority person. The state expanded the court from six to seven seats and appointed Johnson at that time. She is the first African-American woman to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court and the first to become Chief Justice.
The seniority of the justices on the Louisiana Supreme Court was disputed in the summer of 2012 after Chief Justice Kimball announced her retirement. The Louisiana Constitution, Art. 5, § 6, provides that "The judge oldest in point of service on the supreme court shall be chief justice." When Justice Bernette Johnson was elected in 1994, she technically filled a seat on a state appeals court but was assigned to serve on the Supreme Court on a full-time basis under the terms of a federal consent decree. Justice Jeffrey Victory, who was elected to the Supreme Court in 1995, has contested Johnson's elevation to Chief Justice, arguing that she only became a full-fledged Supreme Court justice in 2000, when Johnson was first elected to fill a permanent seat on the Court. Others, such as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, supported Justice Johnson's claim to be the most senior justice. Justice Johnson filed a federal lawsuit in the matter on July 5, 2012. On September 1, Federal District Court Judge Susie Morgan ruled that Johnson had seniority. Governor Bobby Jindal stated that it should be left to the state to interpret its constitution, and filed an appeal a week later. He then asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the lower court's decisions. On October 16, 2012, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that Johnson would become the next Chief Justice.
Johnson (1994); Weimer (2001); Guidry (2009); Clark (2009); Hughes (2012); Crichton (2015); Genovese (2017)