Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Archives

 

 

(Mss 106)

 

 

Inventory

 

 

Earl K. Long Library

University of New Orleans

 

May 2005

 

 

Contents

 

 

Summary

 

Historical Note

 

Research Tips

 

List of Series and Subseries

 

Series Descriptions

 

Container List

 

Index Terms

 

Procedures for Requesting Special Collections Materials

 

 

 

Summary

 

 

Size:                          ca. 2,730 linear feet

 

Geographic

locations:                 Louisiana

 

Inclusive dates:      1813-1920

 

Summary:                The Archives of the Supreme Court of Louisiana consist of manuscript files of cases appealed from lower state courts to the Supreme Court of Louisiana and bound volumes of Court records pertaining to the dockets and minutes of court sessions.  Case files range in volume from several pages to thousands of pages.  Rules required that the Court be provided with a complete transcript of lower court files and evidence; thus the case files include maps, surveys, printed briefs, and a host of other documentation.

 

Related

collections:              Dart & Dart Collection (Mss 61); Dart & Dart and Prior Firms Collection (Mss 140); Dart & Dart and Prior Firms Collection, Addendum 1 Mss 150), Dart & Dart and Prior Firms Collection, Addendum 2 (Mss 256); John A. Dixon, Jr. Collection (Mss 216)

 

Source:                     Deposit, 1979-2000

 

Access:                     1.         Open to research under regulations of Special Collections.

                                    2.         Records not to be removed from Special Collections without written permission of the Court.

                                    3.         Clerk of Court may withdraw records on deposit at any time.

 

Copyright:                Physical rights are retained by the Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans.

 

Citation:                    Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Archives, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans

 

 

 

Historical Note

 

 

            The Supreme Court of Louisiana holds the distinction of being the state’s highest court, or, as it is often called, the court of last resort in Louisiana.  By order of the Court on November 4, 1976, its historical archives—defined as those records created from the Court’s inception in 1813, when Louisiana’s first state constitution became effective, through 1920—were deposited in the Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans “to ensure their preservation and safety.” 

 

            The archives consist mainly of manuscript case files appealed from lower state courts to the Supreme Court of Louisiana.  Occupying approximately 2,730 linear feet, case files range in extent from several pages to thousands of pages.  Rules required that the Court be provided with a complete transcript of lower court files and evidence; thus the case files include maps, surveys, printed briefs, and a host of other documentation.  Often these are the only extant copies, not only of appellate arguments and decisions, but also of records that originated with lower courts, for many lower-court copies have been lost to fire, theft, and age-related deterioration.

 

            Case files include a small number of legal documents, dating between 1769 and 1812, which were used as exhibits or in transcripts, and dockets for some cases which were “unreported”, meaning that the opinion was not published in Louisiana Reports.  Supplementing these case files are docket books, which serve as a sort of index to the case files, and minute books, which summarize particular cases and record the Court’s disposition of them.

 

            In addition to the winter and spring sessions held in New Orleans, until 1894 the Supreme Court met elsewhere in the state during the summer and fall, at times in Opelousas, Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Monroe, Natchitoches, and Shreveport.  Each location maintained its own docket-numbering system.  Several times, coinciding with new state constitutions, one numbering system was discontinued and another was begun.  Many case files, docket books, and minute books for Court sessions held outside New Orleans are missing.  Since 1898 the Court has held its sessions only in New Orleans.

 

 

 

Research Tips

 

 

            We are working on creating a complete database of all of the cases in our collection which will be useful for searching for individual names and case citations.  In the meantime, there are many tools available to researchers for locating cases from this collection.

 

            One of the easiest, which is available on most campuses, is LexisNexis Academic’s Legal Research.  On the main page, click on “State Case Law,” then on “Louisiana”.  Set the “Court” option to “Louisiana High Court” and the “Date” to any range between 1813-1920 to target our holdings.  This offers keyword searching of the full-text of the opinions published in the various legal reports.  You may also click the “Guided Search” tab to perform a more targeted search for combinations of terms or names in various sections of the record: Plaintiffs, Defendants, Judges, Citation, Headnotes, to name a few.

 

            Researchers should note that not all of the court’s opinions were published.  For example, if the judges applied well-established principles to a case with no novel facts, they did not bother to publish the opinion as it had no value as a precedent.  But what is of little interest to the lawyer might be of great interest to the historian or anthropologist.  The files of these “unreported” cases are a potential gold mine, but accessing them can be difficult as there is no published reference to them, other than the list of “Cases Not Reported” in the front of the annual legal reports after 1865.  Besides the annual reports, researchers may consult the docket indexes to the New Orleans sessions to discover these cases involving individuals, companies or institutions from that portion of the state.  Thomas C. Manning’s Unreported Cases Heard and Determined by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, from January 8, 1877, to April, 1880, Digested, Reported, and Condensed (St. Louis: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1884), a copy of which is in the Dart Collection (Mss 140), is another useful source.

 

            Researchers using the collection to study various historical and cultural topics should keep in mind that this is a collection of materials related to law and should familiarize them­selves with the precise legal vocabulary used by the court.  For example, historians interested in placage, the antebellum practice of white men keeping a black mistress, will not find any cases if they search for “placage” in LexisNexis.  The appropriate legal term is “concubinage,” and a search using that word yields fifty-five cases where the term occurs before 1865.  An excellent source for checking the terms you wish to search is any edition of William K. Dart and Edward F. White’s Louisiana Digest Annotated (1917; Second series, 1937; new 1951; the latter is in our Reference Collection KFL 57.L66), which gives case citations as well as cross-references to other useful terms.  Another good source is West’s Louisiana Digest 1809 to Date (Reference Collection KFL 57 .L66).

 

            Another very useful tool for finding case files that deal with portions of the state’s constitution or legislative acts is Theodore Roehl’s Annotations to the Statute Law of the State of Louisiana (New Orleans: F. F. Hansell & Bro., Ltd., 1917), a copy of which is in the Dart Collection (Mss 140).  This breaks down the Civil Code, Code of Practice, Constitutions (1812-1913), and Acts of the Legislature (1822-1916) into their articles, sections, and acts, and lists the legal citations for all Supreme Court cases that deal with these individual components.

 

 

 

List of Series and Subseries

 

 

List of Series and Subseries

 

Series I.    Case Files

 

1813-1846

I.A        Eastern District (New Orleans), 1813-1846

I.B        Western District (Opelousas; Alexandria), 1813-1846

I.C       Baton Rouge, 1832-1836

 

1846-1860

I.D       New Orleans, 1846-1860

I.E        Alexandria, 1846-1860

I.F        Monroe, 1846-1860

 

1861-1920

I.G       New Orleans, 1861ff

I.H        Opelousas, 1869-1894

I.I          Monroe, 1869-1894

I.J        Natchitoches, 1866-1869

I.K        Shreveport, 1880-1894

 

Series II.        Docket Books

II.A       Docket Books

II.B       Indexes

 

 

Series III.       Minute Books

III.A      New Orleans Sessions

III.B      Other Sessions

 

 

Series IV.      Miscellaneous Records

 

 

 

                                                       Series Descriptions

 

 

Series I.         Case Files

 

1813-1920

 

Case files can consist of a few pages or several hundred.  Generally they contain transcripts of the lower court proceedings, including testimony and evidence, copies of motions and briefs filed with the Supreme Court, and the opinions rendered by the justices.

 

The files are divided into three broad eras: 1813-1846; 1846-1861; and 1861-1920.  Within those eras, the files are arranged according to the geographical location of the court session.  Within each session, the files are arranged according to the docket number assigned by the clerk of that court.

 

The case files from the New Orleans sessions are the most complete; the others have gaps and many files missing.  Materials that were too large to fit with the regular files are kept in separate “Oversize” boxes.  The existence of these materials is usually noted on the individual case file folder.

 

Researchers should note that not all of the court’s opinions were published. The files for these “unreported” cases are included, but accessing them can be difficult as there is no published reference to them, other than the list of “Cases Not Reported” in the front of the annual legal reports after 1865.  These cases are noted in our Supreme Court Database.  Researchers may also consult the docket indexes to the New Orleans sessions to discover these cases involving individuals from that portion of the state.  Thomas C. Manning’s Unreported Cases Heard and Determined by the Supreme Court of Louisiana, from January 8, 1877, to April, 1880, Digested, Reported, and Condensed (St. Louis: Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 1884), a copy of which is in the Dart Collection (Mss 140), is another useful source.

 

We are currently working on a database of all the case files.  In the meantime, finding a particular case file requires determining (a) the court session, (b) the date, and (c) the docket number.  The court session and date are recorded in the printed opinions located using the legal citation for the decision (e.g. 5 Martin (O.S) 157; 9 Rob. 354; 16 La Ann 652) or LexisNexis.  The docket number is found in the same printed information for cases reported after 1865.  Finding a docket number for pre-1865 cases requires you to look up the legal citation for the case in the set of reports in our reading room to find the docket number written in pencil in the case heading.

 

Another very useful tool for finding case files is Theodore Roehl’s Annotations to the Statute Law of the State of Louisiana (New Orleans: F. F. Hansell & Bro., Ltd., 1917), a copy of which is in the Dart Collection (Mss 140).  This breaks down the Civil Code, Code of Practice, Constitutions (1812-1913), and Acts of the Legislature (1822-1916) into their articles, sections, and acts, and lists the legal citations for all Supreme Court cases that deal with these individual components.  This is particularly helpful for anyone doing research on a particular act or section of a constitution.

 

See Series IV for case files for the Court of Errors and Appeals, 1843-1846.

 

1813-1846

 

Subseries I.A:  Eastern District (New Orleans), 1813-1846

Includes docket numbers 1-6124.  See the entry for Subseries I.C, Baton Rouge, for cases moved there in the mid 1830s.

 

Subseries I.B:  Western District (Opelousas; Alexandria), 1813-1846

Includes docket numbers 1-1369. 

 

Subseries I.C:  Baton Rouge, 1832-1836

Includes docket numbers 1-119.  This was a special district carved out of the Eastern District (New Orleans) by act of the legislature in 1832.  Pending cases appealed from the parishes of West Feliciana, East Feliciana, East Baton Rouge, Livingston, St. Helena, and Washington were transferred from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.  After this session was abolished by another legislative act in 1836, these cases were returned to New Orleans.

 

1846-1860

 

Subseries I.D:  New Orleans, 1846-1860

Includes docket numbers 1-6984.

 

Subseries I.E:  Alexandria, 1846-1860

Includes docket numbers 1-364.

 

Subseries I.F:  Monroe, 1846-1860

Includes docket numbers 19-857.

 

1861-1920

 

Subseries I.G:  New Orleans, 1861ff

Processed cases include docket numbers 1-10,359.

Unprocessed records include docket numbers 10,360-25,059.

 

Subseries I.H:  Opelousas, 1869-1894

Includes docket numbers 1-1492.

 

Subseries I.I:  Monroe, 1869-1894

Includes docket numbers 6-1301.

 

Subseries I.J:  Natchitoches, 1866-1869

Includes docket numbers 1-861.

 

Subseries I.K:  Shreveport, 1880-1894

Includes docket numbers 1-384

 

 

Series II.        Docket Books and Indexes, 1813-1898

Only the docket books and indexes for the New Orleans sessions exist.  When a case was filed with the clerk of the court, it was assigned a sequential docket number and both parties were also listed in the indexes along with the docket number.

 

Subseries II.A:  Docket Books, 1813-1898

Generally each page is divided into fourths, with one-quarter of a page devoted to each docket number.  All transactions concerning the case were recorded here in chronological order, including: the original court and its docket number, documents filed (e.g. motions, briefs), hearings, judgments, and the charges for each transaction.  Some lengthy cases required more space and a note at the bottom indicates which other docket number the case was continued under.  These books can be used, among other things, to determine dates of court actions for newspaper research.

 

Subseries II.B:  Indexes, 1826-1898

Individual cases were listed in the index under the first letter of the last name of both the appellee and appellant, with the case’s docket number listed in the left margin.  Successions are usually listed under “S” (e.g. “Succession of E. B. Hardesty”) as well as the last name of the decedent (e.g. “Hardesty, E. B.  Succession of”).  Other cases involving the state as an agent or officials are not always consistent, and could be listed under the individual’s surname or title of the office (e.g. “State ex rel. Dellonde v. City School Board” is listed in under “S” and “C”).  These indexes are useful for finding docket numbers for unreported cases as well as cases where the opinion has no number listed, or it is incorrect.

 

 

Series III.       Minute Books, 1813-1922

These volumes record the daily activities of the court sessions in chronological order.  Information concerning cases includes names, docket numbers, and actions taken.  The court also entered important communications from federal and state officials, commissions, admissions to the Louisiana bar, memorials and other items deemed important.

 

Subseries III.A:  New Orleans Sessions, 1813-1922

            Includes Eastern District and New Orleans.

 

Subseries III.B:  Other Sessions, 1813-1894

            Includes Western District, Alexandria, Opelousas, Monroe, Natchitoches, and Shreveport.

 

 

Series IV.      Miscellaneous Records, 1817-1894

These include opinion books, various administrative records, a docket summary for New Orleans, and the cases of the Court of Errors and Appeals.

 

 

Container List

 

 

Series I.         Case Files, 1813-1920

 

Subseries I.A:  Eastern District (New Orleans), 1813-1846

 

Boxes 1-314              Docket Nos. 1-6124

 

Boxes 1-18                Oversize

 

Subseries I.B:  Western District (Opelousas; Alexandria), 1813-1846

 

Boxes 1-29                Docket Nos. 1-1369

 

Boxes 1-4                  Oversize

 

Subseries I.C:  Baton Rouge, 1832-1836

 

Boxes 1-7                  Docket Nos. 1-119

 

Box 1          Oversize

 

Subseries I.D:  New Orleans, 1846-1860

 

Boxes 1-482              Docket Nos. 1-6984

 

Boxes 1-54                Oversize

 

Subseries I.E:  Alexandria, 1846-1860

 

Boxes 1-16                Docket Nos. 1-364

 

Box 1          Oversize

 

Subseries I.F:  Monroe, 1846-1860

 

Boxes 1-2                  Docket Nos. 19-857

 

Boxes 1-2                  Oversize

 

Subseries I.G:  New Orleans, 1861ff

 

Boxes 1-1003            Docket Nos. 1-10,359 (Processed)

 

Boxes 1-42                Oversize

 

Boxes 163-1120       Docket Nos. 10,360-25,059 (Unprocessed; boxes numbered by the Clerk of Court)

[See following document for location of individual boxes and case files]

 

Subseries I.H:  Opelousas, 1869-1894

 

Boxes 1-24                Docket Nos. 1-1492

 

Box 1          Oversize

 

Subseries I.I:  Monroe, 1869-1894

 

Boxes 1-60                Docket Nos. 6-1301

 

Boxes 1-21                Oversize

 

Subseries I.J:  Natchitoches, 1866-1869

 

Boxes 1-2                  Docket Nos. 1-861

 

Subseries I.K:  Shreveport, 1880-1894

 

Boxes 1-13                Docket Nos. 1-384

 

Boxes 1-21                Oversize

 

 

Series II.        Docket Books and Indexes, 1813-1898

 

Subseries II.A:  Docket Books, 1813-1898

 

Docket No.

Start Year

End Year

Starting Docket No.

Ending

Docket No.

 

1

1813

1823

1

861

 

2

1823

1831

862

2127

 

3

1831

1838

2128

3303

 

4

1838

1843

3304

5300

 

 

5

1843

1846

5301

6124

 

1846

1851

1

2000

6

1851

1857

2001

5427

 

 

7

1857

1861

5428

6984

 

1861

1866

1

1046

8

1866

1873

1047

4567

 

9

1873

1878

4568

7132

 

10

1878

1886

7133

9659

 

11

1886

1898

9660

12902

 

 

Subseries II.B:  Indexes, 1826-1898

 

Docket Volume Nos.

Start Year

End Year

Start No.

End No.

2, 3, 4, 5

1826

1830

526

2000

2, 3, 4,

1830

1838

2001

3438

4, 5

1838

1843

3439

5300

5

6/29/1843

3/19/1846

5301

6124

3/20/1846

1/13/1851

1

2000

6, 7

1/13/1851

1/26/1861

2001

6984

7, 8

1/28/1861

11/9/1870

1

2999

8, 9

11/9/1870

4/13/1878

3000

7132

10

1878

1886

7133

9659

11

1886

1898

9660

12902

Duplicates

4

1838

1845

[3300]

[5980]

4, 5

1846

1846

[5982]

[6124]

1846

1851

1

2000

6

1/13/1851

12/31/1857

2001

5427

8

11/5/1866

10/21/1869

1059

2339

 

 

Series III.       Minute Books, 1813-1922

 

            Subseries III.A:  New Orleans Sessions, 1813-1922

                        Minute Books contain no index unless otherwise indicated.

 

Volume No

Starting Year

Ending Year

1(Index in front)

1813

1818

2

1818

1823

3

1823

1829

4

1829

1834

5

1834

1839

6

1839

1842

7

1842

1844

8

1844

1846

9

1846

1848

10

1848

1851

11

1851

1854

12

1854

1857

13

1857

1859

14

1859

1860

15

1860

1865

16

1865

1868

17

1868

1870

18

1870

1871

19

1871

1872

20

1872

1874

21

1874

1876

22

1876

1879

23

1879

1881

24

1881

1883

25

1883

1887

26

1887

1892

27

1892

1895

28

1895

1898

29

1898

1900

30

1900

1902

31

1902

1905

32

1905

1907

33

1907

1909

34

1909

1912

35

1912

1914

36

Missing

37

1917

1920

38

1920

1922

 

            Subseries III.B:  Other Sessions, 1813-1894

                        Minute Books contain no index unless otherwise indicated.

 

Volume

Seat

Starting Year

Ending Year

1

(Index in front)

Western District

1813

1843

2

(Separate index in front)

Alexandria

1843

1845

3

Alexandria

1846

1860

4

Monroe

1846

1858

5

Natchitoches

1866

1869

6

Shreveport A

1880

1894

7

Opelousas

1886

1894

 

 

Series IV.      Miscellaneous Records, 1817-1894

 

Volumes (Placed after Minute Books)

 

New Orleans Indexes to Opinion Books (The actual books do not exist)

No. 16             May 24, 1847March 13, 1848

No. 17             March 13, 1848January 22, 1849

No. 18             [1849]

No. 19             June 6, 1849—May 20, 1850

No. 20             n.d.

 

Shreveport Opinion Book, 1880-1890

 

Opelousas Opinion Book, 1893-1894

 

New Orleans Summary Docket, 1875-1878

[Written in the back of the Alexandria Minute Book, 1846-1860, in Subseries II.B, Volume 3]

 

Files (Placed at end of Subseries III.A, Eastern District case files)

 

Box 314          Administrative Records, 1817-1846

Documents relating to admissions to the Louisiana Bar, requests for certified copies and other miscellaneous records.  A complete inventory is contained in the front of the box.

 

Box 315    Court of Errors and Appeals, 1843-1846

Includes docket numbers 13-24.  The Supreme Court had no jurisdiction over criminal cases before the Constitution of 1845.  An act of the legislature on April 6, 1843, created this special court to consider appeals on questions of law in criminal matters, presided over by three district judges of the state.  The opinions were printed in a separate section of the Supreme Court’s reports, beginning with 8 Rob. 513 through 8 Rob. 616, and are also available in LexisNexis.  See 8 Rob. 512 for a brief description of the act and history of this special court.

 

 

 

Index Terms

 

 

 

Law—Louisiana

Supreme Court of Louisiana