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Using the Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Archives: Supreme Court Archives

The Supreme Court of Louisiana Historical Archives contains thousands of cases from between the years 1813 and 1921. These dates include the court's founding in 1813, the Civil War, and the post-war Reconstruction era.

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An Introduction to the Louisiana Supreme Court Historical Archives

The Supreme Court of Louisiana holds the distinction of being the highest court in the state, or as it is often called, “the court of last resort”. By order of the Court on November 4, 1976 its historical archives, defined as those records created after the Court's inception in 1813 through the year 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 within the lower courts, as many lower court copies have been lost to fire, theft, and age-related deterioration.

In addition to the winter and spring sessions held in New Orleans 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 of these locations maintained its own docket-numbering system. Several times, coinciding with new state constitutions, one numbering system would be discontinued and another begun. Unfortunately, many of the case files from these other districts did not survive to the present day.  Since 1898, the Court has exclusively held its sessions in New Orleans.

These cases can provide a wealth on information on a number of subjects including: slavery, genealogy, civil rights, and much, much more.

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