Western District of Louisiana

The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana plays a pivotal role in the federal judiciary. As one of 94 federal judicial districts, the court oversees cases arising under federal law throughout its jurisdiction. The district has a long and rich history dating back to its establishment in 1812. Today, the Western District of Louisiana continues to serve the interests of justice through its dedicated judges, staff, and facilities.

Overview of the Western District of Louisiana

The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana is a federal trial court that handles both civil and criminal matters. The district is part of the Fifth Circuit, along with Mississippi and Texas. There are seven divisional offices located throughout the district. Judges regularly travel to hold court in each division.

The Western District serves over 2.5 million residents across the western third of Louisiana. This includes major cities like Shreveport, Lafayette, and Lake Charles. The court oversees all cases involving federal law, including admiralty, bankruptcy, patent and copyright, Constitutional rights, and federal crimes. Litigants can appeal decisions to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Key Details

U.S. Marshal: Christopher Felix

The U.S. Marshal for the district is Christopher Felix. He leads the Marshal’s office in protecting the court system and executing its orders.

Courthouse: Tom Stagg United States Courthouse

The district’s headquarters are located in the Tom Stagg United States Courthouse in Shreveport. This courthouse opened in 1994 and is named for a former chief judge.

Address: 300 Fannin Street, Suite 1202, Shreveport, LA 71101-6304

The Tom Stagg Courthouse address is 300 Fannin Street, Suite 1202, in Shreveport.

Phone: (318) 934-4300

The phone number for the District Court Clerk’s office is (318) 934-4300.

See also  Middle District of Alabama

Counties Served:

The Western District serves 48 parishes across northwestern, central, and southwestern Louisiana:

Acadia, Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Calcasieu, Caldwell, Cameron, Catahoula, Claiborne, Concordia, Jefferson Davis, De Soto, East Carroll, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Iberia, Jackson, Lafayette, La Salle, Lincoln, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, Saint Landry, Saint Martin, Saint Mary, Tensas, Union, Vermilion, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, Winn

Court Locations:

The Western District holds court in six divisional cities:

  • Alexandria
  • Lafayette
  • Lake Charles
  • Monroe
  • Opelousas
  • Shreveport

History of the District

The Western District of Louisiana has a long history within the federal judiciary. Congress established the district on April 8, 1812 as one of the original 13 districts within the new U.S. court system. The district covered the newly-acquired Louisiana Purchase territory west of the Mississippi River.

For the first century of its existence, the Western District operated out of courthouses in Opelousas and Alexandria. The district expanded and reorganized over the years as new states entered the Union. It saw dramatic growth in the early 1900s during Louisiana’s oil boom. The discovery of oil on the Red River led the district to move its headquarters to Shreveport in 1941.

Over its 200-year history, the Western District has overseen many important cases related to the region’s industries, environment, civil rights, and other critical issues. Its judges and staff have played an important role in shaping the development of law in Louisiana. Today, the court continues this legacy while serving a population of over 2.5 million people.

Court Operations and Caseloads

The Western District of Louisiana handles a broad range of federal civil and criminal litigation. In a typical year, around 3,000 new cases will be filed in the district across its divisions. These include lawsuits between citizens of different states, bankruptcy claims, civil rights cases, and more.

Criminal cases make up about one-third of the Western District’s caseload. The court sees many prosecutions related to drug trafficking and financial fraud. Other major criminal cases involve public corruption, firearms, immigration violations, and human trafficking. Grand juries meet regularly in each division to hand down indictments.

See also  Boulder County District Court

There are currently 5 district court judges and 5 magistrate judges assigned to the Western District bench. They are supported by a Clerk of Court, Probation Office, U.S. Marshals Service, and other staff. The judges have a reputation for efficiently resolving their complex and challenging dockets. Trials are held throughout the year in Shreveport, Lafayette, and other courtrooms.

Notable Cases

The Western District has adjudicated many high-profile cases that shaped society, law, and government over the past two centuries.

In the 1950s, the court ordered Louisiana State University to integrate, one of the early school desegregation decisions. The district also oversaw key cases related to voting rights, housing discrimination, and desegregation of Louisiana’s public facilities in the 1960s.

More recently, the Western District has handled cases arising from major environmental disasters. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the court managed hundreds of civil lawsuits against BP and others. It continues to handle ongoing litigation related to decades of industrial pollution across Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley.”

The court has overseen prosecutions of major public corruption scandals, including convictions of top figures in former Governor Edwin Edwards’ administration. Other major cases have targeted drug trafficking, firearms offenses, and fraud connected to Louisiana’s industries.

Judges and Staff

The Western District currently has five active district court judges nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They each serve a lifetime appointment. The current judges are:

  • Chief Judge Elizabeth Erny Foote
  • Judge Tom Stagg
  • Judge Robert G. James
  • Judge Maurice Hicks
  • Judge David C. Joseph

These judges are supported by five full-time magistrate judges. The Clerk of Court, Robert S. Tew, leads the office managing the court’s administration. The District also has Probation and Pretrial Services offices monitoring defendants and offenders.

With its small judicial footprint, the Western District of Louisiana handles a sizeable caseload. Its judges are regarded as fair and efficient jurists. Several of the active judges have family connections to the district dating back generations, which provides helpful historical perspective on the court’s legacy.

See also  Lee County Courthouse

Court Facilities

The Western District is headquartered at the Tom Stagg United States Courthouse at 300 Fannin Street in Shreveport. This six-story building contains three courtrooms, judges’ chambers, and the Clerk’s office. The courthouse facility opened in 1994 and features modern technology for remote hearings when needed.

Divisional courtrooms are also located in Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, and Opelousas. The courtrooms allow judges to hold proceedings regularly throughout the district for increased access to justice. The divisional facilities provide office space for the Clerk and Probation when judges are sitting there.

With facilities spanning hundreds of miles across Louisiana, the Western District strives to conduct its business efficiently. Proceedings are held in the proper vicinage and court staff serves all communities within the district’s broad jurisdiction.

Conclusion

For over two centuries, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana has fulfilled a vital role in the federal judiciary. As a trial court, it provides local citizens with access to justice on federal legal matters. The district has overseen cases key to the region’s civil rights, environment, economy, and public integrity. With its experienced judges and hardworking staff, the Western District continues its commitment to fair and equal justice under the law.

FAQs

How many people live in the Western District of Louisiana?

Over 2.5 million people live in the 48 parishes that make up the Western District. It serves about one-third of Louisiana’s total population.

Where are the courthouses located?

The district has its main courthouse in Shreveport and divisional courtrooms in Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, and Opelousas. Judges travel to hold trials and hearings in each city.

How many judges are on the bench?

The Western District has 5 full district court judges and 5 magistrate judges. The chief judge is Elizabeth Erny Foote.

What kinds of cases does the court handle?

Like all federal courts, the Western District handles cases arising under federal law and the U.S. Constitution. This includes civil, criminal, bankruptcy, patent, civil rights, and admiralty cases.

How can I access records or file documents with the court?

Contact the Clerk of Court’s office at (318) 934-4300 or visit the court’s website to access records remotely and find filing information.

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