Eastern District of Louisiana
The Eastern District of Louisiana has played an integral role in the history of the region for nearly two centuries. As one of the original 13 federal court districts established by Congress, it has grown and evolved along with the city of New Orleans and the southeastern parishes of the state. Today, this historic judicial district continues to serve a vital function in upholding justice, protecting rights, and interpreting the law.
The Eastern District of Louisiana encompasses 13 counties across southeastern Louisiana. Some key details include:
The current U.S. Marshal is Enix Smith III, who was appointed in 2021. The Marshal is responsible for serving federal court orders and providing security for the court.
The district courthouse is the Hale Boggs Federal Building-Courthouse located at 500 Poydras Street in downtown New Orleans. It is named after former Congressman Hale Boggs.
500 Poydras Street, Suite 724 New Orleans, LA 70130-3326
January 12, 1827
The district has jurisdiction over the following counties:
- Saint Bernard
- Saint Charles
- Saint James
- Saint John the Baptist
- Saint Tammany
The court holds sessions in New Orleans at the district courthouse.
The roots of the Eastern District of Louisiana trace back to the early 19th century after the Louisiana Purchase when the territory became part of the United States.
Establishment of the District Court
In 1812, the first United States District Court for the District of Orleans was established with jurisdiction over the Orleans Territory, which would eventually become part of the state of Louisiana.
When Louisiana joined the Union in 1812, the District of Orleans name was changed to the District of Louisiana. Its jurisdiction expanded over time to cover more parishes in the southeastern part of the state.
A Growing Docket
As New Orleans grew into a major port city for trade, the district court’s docket expanded significantly. Cases involved admiralty and maritime issues, bankruptcy, commercial and financial disputes, and eventually patent and copyright issues.
Notable Cases and Judges
The Eastern District of Louisiana has handled numerous influential and high-profile cases over the decades and has been home to several distinguished jurists.
Landmark Civil Rights Cases
In the 1950s and 1960s, the court presided over landmark civil rights cases related to school desegregation and voting rights, such as the Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board case.
Hurricane Katrina Cases
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the court had over 800 Hurricane Katrina-related lawsuits on its docket involving insurance claims, property rights, and more.
Judges like John Minor Wisdom made major contributions to advancing civil rights from the bench. More recently, judges like Ivan Lemelle, Mary Ann Vial Lemmon, and Carl Barbier have overseen blockbuster cases.
The Eastern District of Louisiana runs as smoothly as it does thanks to the careful oversight of its judges and staff.
Federal judges in the district are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Magistrate judges are appointed by the district judges to handle certain matters like discovery disputes.
The court has divisions in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Houma-Thibodaux to handle cases from different parts of the district.
The court hears both civil and criminal cases that fall under federal jurisdiction. This includes cases related to federal laws, the U.S. government, or diversity jurisdiction.
The Clerk of Court oversees the court’s administrative functions and maintains records. The court also has probation officers, interpreters, IT staff, and more.
The Marshals Service
An important component of the federal judicial system is the United States Marshals Service, which serves and protects the Eastern District of Louisiana.
History of Marshals
The Marshals Service was created in 1789, making it the first federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. Marshals were originally appointed to oversee each federal judicial district.
Duties and Responsibilities
Marshals and deputy marshals carry out a range of duties for the Eastern District Court including:
- Providing security for the federal courthouse
- Transporting federal prisoners
- Executing arrest warrants
- Tracking and apprehending fugitives
- Managing seized assets
Famous marshals from the Eastern District have included Maurice S. Caffery, Jr. and L.J. Hymel, Jr.
The Hale Boggs Federal Building and Courthouse where the Eastern District Court resides has a rich history of its own.
History of the Building
The courthouse opened in 1976 and was named after Congressman Hale Boggs who served Louisiana’s 2nd district until he disappeared in 1972.
In the 1990s and 2000s, the building underwent extensive renovations. This included the addition of courtrooms, judge’s chambers, and office space.
After 9/11, security was enhanced with restricted access, increased screening, and more. This ensures the safety of all who work in or visit the courthouse.
The building has been equipped to be ADA compliant so all visitors can access court services.
Serving the Community
Beyond adjudicating federal cases, the Eastern District Court aims to serve the Southeast Louisiana community.
The court offers resources like a law library, public computer access, and assistance with filing cases pro se.
The court has education programs for students and hosts events like naturalization ceremonies.
The court plays an important role in supporting commerce by resolving business disputes efficiently.
For nearly 200 years, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana has profoundly shaped the local legal landscape. Its history is intertwined with key events, cases, and figures that have advanced civil rights, interpreted the law, and promoted justice. Today, the court continues this legacy through its broad jurisdiction, distinguished judges, and its role as an anchor of the federal judiciary in New Orleans and the surrounding region. The court’s officials, staff, and facilities enable it to carry out its duties while serving the public. The Eastern District of Louisiana’s storied history lays the foundation for an equally important future upholding the federal judicial mission.
Q: How many judges currently serve on the Eastern District Court?
A: The Eastern District of Louisiana currently has 12 district court judges, 5 magistrate judges, and 2 bankruptcy judges.
Q: What was one major economic case the Eastern District Court presided over?
A: After the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the Eastern District Court handled multi-district litigation involving economic loss and property damage claims against BP and other defendants.
Q: How can I view public records for the Eastern District Court?
A: You can access public court records through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) or by visiting the clerk’s office in person.
Q: What district court borders the Eastern District of Louisiana?
A: The Eastern District of Louisiana borders the Western District of Louisiana to the west and the Southern District of Mississippi to the east.
Q: When did the modern courthouse building open in New Orleans?
A: The Hale Boggs Federal Building and courthouse opened in 1976 after the prior courthouse became too small for the court’s needs.