Article V: Judicial Branch
Section 1. The judicial power is vested in a supreme court, courts of appeal, district courts, and other courts authorized by this Article.
Section 2. A judge may issue writs of habeas corpus and all other needful writs, orders, and process in aid of the jurisdiction of his court. Exercise of this authority by a judge of the supreme court or of a court of appeal is subject to review by the whole court. The power to punish for contempt of court shall be limited by law.
Section 3. The supreme court shall be composed of a chief justice and six associate justices, four of whom must concur to render judgment. The term of a supreme court judge shall be ten years.
Section 4. The state shall be divided into at least six supreme court districts, and at least one judge shall be elected from each. The districts and the number of judges assigned to each on the effective date of this constitution are retained, subject to change by law enacted by two-thirds of the elected members of each house of the legislature.
Section 5.(A) Supervisory Jurisdiction; Rule-Making Power; Assignment of Judges. The supreme court has general supervisory jurisdiction over all other courts. It may establish procedural and administrative rules not in conflict with law and may assign a sitting or retired judge to any court. The supreme court shall have sole authority to provide by rule for appointments of attorneys as temporary or ad hoc judges of city, municipal, traffic, parish, juvenile, or family courts.
(B) Original Jurisdiction. The supreme court has exclusive original jurisdiction of disciplinary proceedings against a member of the bar.
(C) Scope of Review. Except as otherwise provided by this constitution, the jurisdiction of the supreme court in civil cases extends to both law and facts. In criminal matters, its appellate jurisdiction extends only to questions of law.
(D) Appellate Jurisdiction. In addition to other appeals provided by this constitution, a case shall be appealable to the supreme court if (1) a law or ordinance has been declared unconstitutional or (2) the defendant has been convicted of a capital offense and a penalty of death actually has been imposed.
(E) Additional Jurisdiction until July 1, 1982. In addition to the provisions of Section 5(D) and notwithstanding the provisions of Section 5(D), or Sections 10(A)(3) and 10(C), the supreme court shall have exclusive appellate jurisdiction to decide criminal appeals where the defendant has been convicted of a felony or a fine exceeding five hundred dollars or imprisonment exceeding six months actually has been imposed, but only when an order of appeal has been entered prior to July 1, 1982 and shall have exclusive supervisory jurisdiction of all criminal writ applications filed prior to July 1, 1982 and of all criminal writ applications relating to convictions and sentences imposed prior to July 1, 1982.
(F) Appellate Jurisdiction; Civil Cases; Extent. Subject to the provisions in Paragraph (C), the supreme court has appellate jurisdiction over all issues involved in a civil action properly before it.
Amended by Acts 1980, No. 843, 1, approved Nov. 4, 1980, eff. July 1, 1982; Acts 1987, No. 945, 1, approved Nov. 21, 1987, eff. Dec. 24, 1987.
Section 6. The judge oldest in point of service on the supreme court shall be chief justice. He is the chief administrative officer of the judicial system of the state, subject to rules adopted by the court.
Section 7. The supreme court may select a judicial administrator, its clerks, and other personnel and prescribe their duties.
Section 8.(A) Circuits; Panels. The state shall be divided into at least four circuits, with one court of appeal in each. Each court shall sit in panels of at least three judges selected according to rules adopted by the court.
(B) Judgments. A majority of the judges sitting in a case must concur to render judgment. However, in civil matters only, when a judgment of a district court is to be modified or reversed and one judge dissents, the case shall be reargued before a panel of at least five judges prior to rendition of judgment, and a majority must concur to render judgment.
(C) Terms. The term of a court of appeal judge shall be ten years.
Amended by Acts 1980, No. 843, 1, approved Nov. 4, 1980, eff. July 1, 1982.
Section 9. Each circuit shall be divided into at least three districts, and at least one judge shall be elected from each. The circuits and districts and the number of judges as elected in each circuit on the effective date of this constitution are retained, subject to change by law enacted by two-thirds of the elected members of each house of the legislature.
Section 10.(A) Jurisdiction. Except as otherwise provided by this constitution, a court of appeal has appellate jurisdiction of (1) all civil matters, including direct review of administrative agency determinations in worker's compensation matters as heretofore or hereafter provided by law, (2) all matters appealed from family and juvenile courts, and (3) all criminal cases triable by a jury, except as provided in Section 5, Paragraph (D)(2) of this Article. It has supervisory jurisdiction over cases which arise within its circuit.
(B) Scope of Review. Except as limited to questions of law by this constitution, or as provided by law in the review of administrative agency determinations, appellate jurisdiction of a court of appeal extends to law and facts. In the review of an administrative agency determination in a worker's compensation matter, a court of appeal may render judgment as provided by law, or, in the interest of justice, remand the matter to the administrative agency for further proceedings. In criminal cases its appellate jurisdiction extends only to questions of law.
(C) Other Criminal Matters. In all criminal cases not provided for in Paragraph (D)(2) or Paragraph (E) of Section 5 or Paragraph (A)(3) of this Section, a defendant has a right of appeal or review, as provided by law.
Amended by Acts 1980, No. 843, 1, approved Nov. 4, 1980, eff. July 1, 1982; Acts 1990, No. 1098, 1, approved Oct. 6, 1990, eff. Nov. 8, 1990.
Section 11. A court of appeal may certify any question of law before it to the supreme court, and the supreme court then may give its binding instruction or decide the case upon the whole record.
Section 12. The judge oldest in point of service on each court of appeal shall be chief judge of that court and shall administer the court subject to rules adopted by it.
Section 13. Each court of appeal may select its clerk and other personnel and prescribe their duties.
Section 14. The state shall be divided into judicial districts, each composed of at least one parish and served by at least one district judge.
Section 15.(A) Court Retention; Trial Courts of Limited Jurisdiction. The district, family, juvenile, parish, city, and magistrate courts existing on the effective date of this constitution are retained. Subject to the limitations in Sections 16 and 21 of this Article, the legislature by law may abolish or merge trial courts of limited or specialized jurisdiction. The legislature by law may establish trial courts of limited jurisdiction with parishwide territorial jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction which shall be uniform throughout the state. The office of city marshal is continued until the city court he serves is abolished.
(B) Judicial Districts. The judicial districts existing on the effective date of this constitution are retained. Subject to the limitations in Section 21 of this Article, the legislature by law may establish, divide, or merge judicial districts with approval in a referendum in each district and parish affected.
(C) Term. The term of a district, parish, or city court judge shall be six years.
(D) Number of Judges. The legislature may change the number of judges in any judicial district by law enacted by two-thirds of the elected members of each house.
Section 16.(A) Original Jurisdiction. (1) Except as otherwise authorized by this constitution or except as heretofore or hereafter provided by law for administrative agency determinations in worker's compensation matters, a district court shall have original jurisdiction of all civil and criminal matters. (2) It shall have exclusive original jurisdiction of felony cases and of cases involving title to immovable property, except as provided in (3) below; the right to office or other public position; civil or political right; probate and succession matters; except for administrative agency determination provided for in (1) above, the state, a political corporation, or political subdivisions, or a succession, as a defendant; and the appointment of receivers or liquidators for corporations or partnerships. (3) The legislature may provide by law that a family court has jurisdiction of cases involving title to movable and immovable property when those cases relate to the partition of community property and the settlement of claims arising from matrimonial regimes when such action arises as a result of divorce or annulment of marriage.
(B) Appellate Jurisdiction. A district court shall have appellate jurisdiction as provided by law.
Amended by Acts 1990, No. 1098, 1, approved Oct. 6, 1990, eff. Nov. 8, 1990; Acts 1993, No. 1040, 1, approved Oct. 1, 1994, eff. Nov. 3, 1994.
Section 17. Each district court shall elect from its members a chief judge who shall exercise, for a term designated by the court, the administrative functions prescribed by rule of court.
Section 18. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of Section 16 of this Article, juvenile and family courts shall have jurisdiction as provided by law.
Section 19. The determination of guilt or innocence, the detention, and the custody of a person who is alleged to have committed a crime prior to his seventeenth birthday shall be pursuant to special juvenile procedures which shall be provided by law. However, the legislature may (1) by a two-thirds vote of the elected members of each house provide that special juvenile procedures shall not apply to juveniles arrested for having committed first or second degree murder, manslaughter, aggravated rape, armed robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, attempted first degree murder, attempted second degree murder, forcible rape, simple rape, second degree kidnapping, a second or subsequent aggravated battery, a second or subsequent aggravated burglary, a second or subsequent offense of burglary of an inhabited dwelling, or a second or subsequent felony-grade violation of Part X or X-B of Chapter 4 of Title 40 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, involving the manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute controlled dangerous substances, and (2) by two-thirds vote of the elected members of each house lower the maximum ages of persons to whom juvenile procedures shall apply, and (3) by two-thirds vote of the elected members of each house establish a procedure by which the court of original jurisdiction may waive special juvenile procedures in order that adult procedures shall apply in individual cases. The legislature, by a majority of the elected members of each house, shall make special provisions for detention and custody of juveniles who are subject to the jurisdiction of the district court pending determination of guilt or innocence.
Amended by Acts 1979, No. 801, 1, approved Oct. 27, 1979, eff. Dec. 1, 1979; Acts 1994, 3rd Ex. Sess., No. 152, 1, approved Oct. 1, 1994, eff. Nov. 3, 1994.
Section 20. Mayors' courts and justice of the peace courts existing on the effective date of this constitution are continued, subject to change by law.
Section 21. The term of office, retirement benefits, and compensation of a judge shall not be decreased during the term for which he is elected.
Section 22.(A) Election. Except as otherwise provided in this Section, all judges shall be elected. Election shall be at the regular congressional election.
(B) Vacancy. A newly-created judgeship or a vacancy in the office of a judge shall be filled by special election called by the governor and held within twelve months after the day on which the vacancy occurs or the judgeship is established, except when the vacancy occurs in the last twelve months of an existing term. Until the vacancy is filled, the supreme court shall appoint a person meeting the qualifications for the office, other than domicile, to serve at its pleasure. The appointee shall be ineligible as a candidate at the election to fill the vacancy or the newly-created judicial office. No person serving as an appointed judge, other than a retired judge, shall be eligible for retirement benefits provided for the elected judiciary.
(C) End of Term. A judge serving on the effective date of this constitution shall serve through December thirty-first of the last year of his term or, if the last year of his term is not in the year of a regular congressional election, then through December thirty-first of the following year. The election for the next term shall be held in the year in which the term expires, as provided above.
Amended by Acts 1983, No. 728, 1, approved Oct. 22, 1983, eff. Nov. 23, 1983.
Section 23.(A) Retirement System. Within two years after the effective date of this constitution, the legislature shall provide for a retirement system for judges which shall apply to a judge taking office after the effective date of the law enacting the system and in which a judge in office at that time may elect to become a member, with credit for all prior years of judicial service and without contribution therefor. The retirement benefits and judicial service rights of a judge in office or retired on the effective date of this constitution shall not be diminished, nor shall the benefits to which a surviving spouse is entitled be reduced.
(B) Mandatory Retirement. Except as otherwise provided in this Section, a judge shall not remain in office beyond his seventieth birthday. A judge who attains seventy years of age while serving a term of office shall be allowed to complete that term of office.
Acts 2003, No. 1296, 1, approved Oct. 4, 2003, eff. Jan 1, 2004.
Section 24. A judge of the supreme court, a court of appeal, district court, family court, parish court, or court having solely juvenile jurisdiction shall have been admitted to the practice of law in this state for at least five years prior to his election, and shall have been domiciled in the respective district, circuit, or parish for the two years preceding election. He shall not practice law.
Section 25.(A) Composition. The judiciary commission shall consist of
(1) one court of appeal judge and two district court judges selected by the supreme court;
(2) two attorneys admitted to the practice of law for at least ten years and one attorney admitted to the practice of law for at least three years but not more than ten years, selected by the Conference of Court of Appeal Judges or its successor. They shall not be judges, active or retired, or public officials, other than notaries public; and
(3) three citizens, not lawyers, judges active or retired, or public officials, selected by the Louisiana District Judges' Association or its successor.
(B) Term; Vacancy. A member of the commission shall serve a four-year term and shall be ineligible to succeed himself. His term shall end upon the occurrence of any event which would have made him ineligible for appointment. When a vacancy occurs, a successor shall be appointed for a four-year term by the authority which appointed his predecessor.
(C) Powers. On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the supreme court may censure, suspend with or without salary, remove from office, or retire involuntarily a judge for willful misconduct relating to his official duty, willful and persistent failure to perform his duty, persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, conduct while in office which would constitute a felony, or conviction of a felony. On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the supreme court may disqualify a judge from exercising any judicial function, without loss of salary, during pendency of proceedings in the supreme court. On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the supreme court may retire involuntarily a judge for disability that seriously interferes with the performance of his duties and that is or is likely to become permanent. The supreme court shall make rules implementing this Section and providing for confidentiality and privilege of commission proceedings.
(D) Other Disciplinary Action. Action against a judge under this Section shall not preclude disciplinary action against him concerning his license to practice law.
Section 26.(A) Election; Qualifications; Assistants. In each judicial district a district attorney shall be elected for a term of six years. He shall have been admitted to the practice of law in the state for at least five years prior to his election and shall have resided in the district for the two years preceding election. A district attorney may select assistants as authorized by law, and other personnel.
(B) Powers. Except as otherwise provided by this constitution, a district attorney, or his designated assistant, shall have charge of every criminal prosecution by the state in his district, be the representative of the state before the grand jury in his district, and be the legal advisor to the grand jury. He shall perform other duties provided by law.
(C) Prohibition. No district attorney or assistant district attorney shall appear, plead, or in any way defend or assist in defending any criminal prosecution or charge. A violation of this Paragraph shall be cause for removal.
Section 27. In each parish a sheriff shall be elected for a term of four years. He shall be the chief law enforcement officer in the parish, except as otherwise provided by this constitution, and shall execute court orders and process. He shall be the collector of state and parish ad valorem taxes and such other taxes and license fees as provided by law.
This Section shall not apply to Orleans Parish.
Section 28.(A) Powers and Duties; Deputies. In each parish a clerk of the district court shall be elected for a term of four years. He shall be ex officio notary public and parish recorder of conveyances, mortgages, and other acts and shall have other duties and powers provided by law. The clerk may appoint deputies with duties and powers provided by law and, with the approval of the district judges, he may appoint minute clerks with duties and powers provided by law.
(B) Office Hours. The legislature shall establish uniform statewide office hours for clerks of the district courts.
Section 29. In each parish a coroner shall be elected for a term of four years. He shall be a licensed physician and possess the other qualifications and perform the duties provided by law. The requirement that he be a licensed physician shall be inapplicable in any parish in which no licensed physician will accept the office.
Section 30. When a vacancy occurs in the following offices, the duties of the office, until it is filled by election as provided by law, shall be assumed by the persons herein designated: (1) sheriff, by the chief criminal deputy; (2) district attorney, by the first assistant; (3) clerk of a district court, by the chief deputy; (4) coroner, by the chief deputy. If there is no such person to assume the duties when the vacancy occurs, the governing authority or authorities of the parish or parishes concerned shall appoint a qualified person to assume the duties of the office until filled by election.
Section 31. The salary and retirement benefits of an attorney general, district attorney, sheriff, coroner, or clerk of the district court shall not be diminished during his term of office.
Section 32. Except for provisions relating to terms of office as provided elsewhere in this Article, and notwithstanding any other contrary provision of this constitution, the following courts and officers in Orleans Parish are continued, subject to change by law; the civil and criminal district courts; the city, municipal, traffic, and juvenile courts; the clerks of the civil and criminal district courts; the civil and criminal sheriffs; the constables and the clerks of the first and second city courts; the register of conveyances; and the recorder of mortgages.
Section 33.(A) Qualifications. A citizen of the state who has reached the age of majority is eligible to serve as a juror within the parish in which he is domiciled. The legislature may provide additional qualifications.
(B) Exemptions. Persons who are seventy years of age or older shall be exempt from jury service and may decline to serve as jurors, but may elect to serve as jurors if they meet the other qualifications for service as jurors. The supreme court shall provide by rule for other grounds for the exemption of jurors.
Amended by Acts 1999, No. 1406, 1, approved Nov. 20, 1999, eff. Dec. 27, 1999.
Section 34.(A) Grand Jury. There shall be a grand jury or grand juries in each parish, whose qualifications, duties, and responsibilities shall be provided by law. The secrecy of the proceedings, including the identity of witnesses, shall be provided by law.
(B) Right to Counsel. The legislature may establish by law terms and conditions under which a witness may have the right to the advice of counsel while testifying before the grand jury.