New Orleans Public Library
Louisiana. Fourth District Court (Orleans Parish).
Acquisition: Deposited by Civil District Court, 1974
The Louisiana Constitution of 1845 allowed the legislature to establish "as many district courts as the public interest may require" (Title IV, Article 75). These district courts were to have original jurisdiction in all civil cases, when the amount in dispute exceeded $50, exclusive of interest. Act 43 of 1846 further detailed the organization of the district courts in the parish and city of New Orleans. The Act provided for five District Courts: the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth District Courts of New Orleans.
The Fourth District court was to keep two dockets, a "Preference Docket" and an "Ordinary Docket." On the Preference Docket were to be placed "all cases of a commercial nature" and these cases were to be tried "by preference over all cases found on the Ordinary or other dockets." The Judge of the court decided "summarily and without argument" which docket a case was to be assigned. All cases pending (in 1846) before the defunct Commercial Court were to be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Fourth District Court.
Act 229 of 1853 further organized the Orleans Parish courts, giving exclusive jurisdiction over certain types of cases to the courts (criminal matters to First District Court, probate matters to Second District Court, for example) and added a new court, the Sixth District Court, to have jurisdiction over cases pending in the City of Lafayette, newly incorporated into Orleans Parish from Jefferson Parish. The remaining courts (Third, Fourth, and Fifth District Courts) were to have "concurrent jurisdiction of all civil cases whatever" that did not fall under the jurisdiction of the special courts.
Prior to this 1853 Act, the Fourth District Court (along with the other numbered district courts) also handled matters that were not purely commercial in nature, including successions. An index to the successions before the Fourth District Court (and other courts) can be found online here: neworleanspubliclibrary.org/inv/succes1.htm. Most of these records are available on microfilm.
The Consitution of 1868 retained and reinstituted the six numbered district courts in Orleans Parish and added a seventh court. It reiterated the exclusive jurisdiction of several of the courts (First District Court, exclusive criminal jurisdiction; Second District Court, exclusive probate jurisdiction; Third District Court, exclusive jurisdiction of appeals from justices of the peace). Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh District Courts were given exclusive jurisdiction in all civil cases, except probate, when the sum in contest was above one hundred dollars, exclusive of interest. In most courts, the docket numbering begins again at this time.
In 1880, the district courts were replaced by a single court, Civil District Court, still in existence today. All cases pending in Fourth District Court were transferred to the new court under new docket numbers.
The records are arranged in series as follows, all of which are records of the regular business of the court:
Suit Records, 1846-1880
Manuscript records of the proceedings in the civil suits filed before the Fourth District Court. Individual suit records range in size from one or two sheets in the simpler matters to hundreds of documents in the more complicated litigations. Records may include some or all of the following items: petitions, answers, oaths, bonds, transcripts of testimony, and orders & judgments of the court [in some cases the orders and judgments appear as separate documents, more common though was the practice of recording such judicial actions on the reverse of the original petition(s)]. Various articles of evidence may also be filed in individual suit records, including such items as newspaper clippings, plans, copies of original documents filed elsewhere, letters, and accounts/extracts from accounts from various financial records.
Access to these records is through the general docket books and the indexes thereto. (See below)
The "genealogically significant" suit records of the court (generally, those showing evidence of a family line) were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Microfilm is available in the Louisiana Division/City Archives; it can also be ordered from any Mormon Family History Center. Unmicrofilmed records are available for in-house use only in the Louisiana Division/City Archives.
Minute Books, 1846-1880
Bound manuscript volumes in which the daily minutes of the court's proceedings were entered by the clerk. The first 10 volumes, 1846-1854, also include indices to the naturalization records transcribed within the boooks. (In 1854, the courts began keeping separate books for naturalizations and no longer recorded them in the minute books. See our Guide to Genealogical Materials for a description of the naturalization records in the Orleans Parish civil courts.
The minute books were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah.
v. 1 6/18/1846 - 11/11/1847
Manuscript volumes divided into subseries as follows: general dockets (and indexes) and "special" dockets.
The general dockets are arranged in numerical order by docket number. Each page is divided into rectangular sections so that one docket entry appears in each section. At the head of each entry is the docket number, names of the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) in the duit, date of initial filing, the name(s) of the attorney(s) representing the parties to the suit, and in some instances a brief note as to the type of suit. Beneath the heading is a dated list of the actions taken in the suit (e.g., petitions, answers, orders, documents filed, copies made, record withdrawn, judgments, etc.), along with the court costs incurred for each action.
NOTE: The extant general docket books and the plaintiffs' and defendants' indices for the Fourth District Court have been digitized and are available FamilySearch.org. You must create an account with FamilySearch in order to view the images, but the account is free. LINK HERE to access the images. The plaintiffs' and defendants' indices were also microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available for in-house use; the microfilm can also be ordered from any Mormon Family History Center.
The special dockets include the following:
Docket of City Tax Suits, 1872-1878 (VSD350t) 2 v.
These fragmentary special dockets have limited research value and were created for the convenience of the court. Any matters before the court should be recorded in the general docket.
General Docket, 1846-1880
v. 1 6/18/1846 - 1/18/1850 (#1 - 3258)
Defendants' Index to the General Docket, 1846-1880
v. 1 6/18/1846 - 1/18/1850 (#1 - 3258)
Plaintiffs' Index to the General Docket, 1846-1880
v. 1 6/18/1846 - 3/3/1849 (#1 - 2473)
Bound manuscript volumes containing, for certain suits before the court, copies of various salient documents filed in the suit, including the plaintiff's petition, defendant's answer(s), affidavits, orders, jury verdict (in jury cases), the court's judgment, and the decree of the Supreme Court (if the case went up on appeal) for each suit decided, in the order in which the case became final. Thus, the judicial record books show the essentials of suits and decided in the Fourth District Court. These books are particularly useful if the original suit record is no longer extant.
Starred volumes (*) were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available for in-house use. The microfilm can also be ordered from any Mormon Family History Center.
Judicial Record Books, 1846-1877
v. 1 6/19/1846 - 2/8/1847
Manuscript volumes recording deeds for real property sold by the Sheriff under order of the judge of Fourth District Court. Each entry is headed by the name of the purchaser of the property. The parties to the suit are given in the text. The remainder of each entry amounts to the Sheriff's proces verbal of the individual sale, including a legal description of the property, the name of the parties to the suit effecting the sale, the terms of the sale. A reference to the Conveyance Office Book and folio where the deed is formally recorded is also included.
The deed books were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available for in-house use. The microfilm can also be ordered from any Mormon Family History Center.
Deed Books, 1846-1880
v. 1 &bnsp; 11/27/1846 - 1/16/1851
Like the special dockets above, these miscellaneous volumes were created for the convenience of the court and have little, if any, research value. There should be no information recorded in these volumes that can not be found in the suit record, the general docket, and/or the minute books.
Judgments in State Tax Suits, 1871-1872
v. 1 12/13/1871 - 6/28/1872
Judgments Rendered in City Tax Suits, 1866-1870
v. 1 3/22/1866 - 3/23/1866 (#15829 - 16735)
Oaths of Executors, Tutors, Appraisers, Etc., 1846-1861
v. 1 &bnsp; 7/6/1846 - 2/5/1851
Transcript of Records in the Case of State of Mississippi vs. the Commercial Bank of Natchez, 1854
v. 1 12/27/1854 (date of filing)