The Louisiana Constitution distributes the powers of government of the State of Louisiana into three separate branches-- legislative, executive and judicial. Except as provided by the Constitution, no branch of government can exercise the power of another branch of government. This principle is commonly referred to as the constitutional "separation of powers."
The judicial power of the state, which is the power to interpret the Constitution and the laws of this state, is vested in the Judicial Branch of Government, made up of a supreme court, courts of appeal, district courts and other courts authorized by the Constitution.
The Louisiana court structure consists of the following courts
- courts of appeal
- district courts,
- family or juvenile courts,
- city courts and
The Supreme Court is Louisiana's highest court and is domiciled in the City of New Orleans.
JURISDICTION OF SUPREME COURT
"Jurisdiction" is the legal term given to the power and authority of a court to hear and decide certain judicial cases. Pursuant to the Louisiana Constitution, the Louisiana Supreme Court has several types of jurisdiction:
Exclusive original jurisdiction
The supreme court has exclusive original jurisdiction in cases involving disciplinary actions against lawyers and judges. Exclusive original jurisdiction means "jurisdiction in the first instance;" these cases cannot be heard by any other state court.
The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction in cases in which a law or ordinance has been declared unconstitutional and in capital cases where the death penalty has been imposed. These cases originate at the trial court level, but bypass review by the intermediate courts of appeal in order to be heard directly by the supreme court.
The supreme court has supervisory jurisdiction over all courts. Cases from these courts reach the supreme court after they have already been heard by a lower court. The supreme court; however, does not automatically hear these cases.
A party must first convince the court in a special application that their case merits high court review because an error occurred in the opinion, judgment or ruling of the lower court. This procedure is known as "applying for writs.
COURTS OF APPEAL
Louisiana has established the intermediate courts of appeal between the district courts and the Supreme Court. These courts guarantee the right to have almost any trial court decision reviewed by a higher court..
Appellate jurisdiction of Courts of Appeal
Their appellate jurisdiction extends to virtually to all civil and criminal cases triable by a jury, except for those few case which are directly appealable to the supreme court.
The trial court of general jurisdiction in Louisiana is the district court. District courts generally have authority to handle all civil and criminal cases. Civil cases involve actions to enforce, correct or protect private rights.
In civil cases include all types of actions other than criminal proceedings.
In a criminal proceeding a person is charged with a crime and brought to trial and either found guilty or not guilty. The purpose of a criminal case is to punish person who violate criminal laws.
The juvenile courts have exclusive jurisdiction over delinquency cases involving persons under 17 years of age, with the exception of some felony offenses for which 15 or 16 year olds can be bound over to the district courts. Juvenile courts also handle all adoption proceedings of children under the age of 17.
Family courts have jurisdiction over all family matters ranging from delinquency proceedings to divorce and child custody proceedings.
The city courts are courts of record. This means that their decisions are reviewed on appeal on the record, as opposed to being tried anew in a higher court. City courts generally exercise concurrent jurisdiction with the district court in civil cases where the amount in controversy does not exceed $15,000. In criminal matters, they generally have jurisdiction over ordinance violations and misdemeanor violations of state law. City judges also handle a large number of traffic cases.
Louisiana parish courts are distinguishable from city courts only in that they are always staffed by full-time judges and their jurisdiction is a bit broader. Parish courts exercise jurisdiction in civil cases worth up to $10,000 and criminal cases punishable by fines of $1,000 or less, or imprisonment of six months or less. Cases are appealable from the parish courts directly to the Courts Of Appeal.