City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

Territory of Orleans. Superior Court.
Suit Records

Size of Collection:   ca. 3500 suits
Date Range:   1804-1813
Acquisition:   Deposited by Orleans Parish Civil District Court, 1974
Terms of Access:   The Superior Court suit records are available by appointment to registered researchers for in-house use only. Because of the fragile condition of the original materials, photocopies are not allowed.

Historical Note

The Superior Court was created in March 1804 (Act 284, 1st Ses.) to replace the Court of Pleas, which had been established under the temporary government of Territory of Orleans following the Louisiana Purchase. During the territorial period, the Superior Court was roughly analogous to today's Louisiana Supreme Court, i.e., operating as a court of last resort.

The court was a circuit court made up of three judges, though one judge could make a quorum and conduct the business of the court. Its permanent seat was within the County of Orleans, but beginning in 1806, the court was required to go on circuit between June 1 and November 1.

The Superior Court had both original and appellate jurisdiction in civil matters involving $100 or more and exclusive jurisdiction in all capital crimes and crimes punishable at hard labor for life or for 7 years or more. In all other criminal cases, its jurisdiction was concurrent with the county (later parish) courts.

In 1813, the Supreme Court of Louisiana superseded the Superior Court, and all records of and pending cases in the Superior Court were transferred to the district in which the defendant resided.

Scope Note

The Superior Court suit records comprise ca. 3500 cases, many of which involve insolvency proceedings. Included are records from the Court's proceedings in New Orleans only. None of the circuit records are represented in this series. Although the final disposition of the suit is generally given, the judges' reasons for judgment are not. Suit records alone are extant; no supporting documentation, such as docket books or minute books, has survived. Approximately 325 Superior Court suits are represented in Francois Xavier Martin's reports, published in two volumes in 1811 and 1818 (reprinted in 1913).

Link here for a digital version of one of the Superior Court suits: Winter & Harman vs. Murray & Wheaton & others (#3134), 1811

Index to Case Records

The index was created originally in two parts. Part 1, covering 1804-1809 (a few cases are from beyond 1809), was done by Professor Mark Fernandez of the Loyola University History Department, who unfolded the originally bundled documents, filed them in folders, and wrote file names, suit numbers, and the dates of the case on each folder. Library staff created a simple list from the information on each folder, sorted alphabetically by the name of the plaintiff. Part 2, 1809 - 1813, was the work of a Louisiana Division volunteer and is arranged in docket number order. This index does not include the date of the suit. Duplicate suit numbers, which appear in both indexes, remain unresolved, but do not affect our ability to retrieve the documents. We are aware that, due to difficulty of deciphering the handwriting in the original suits, many misspellings exist. Researchers are advised to search carefully and be prepared for questionable spellings.

For some cases, no docket number could be found on the documents. For filing and retrieval purposes, we assigned the case the number that appeared before it in the original filing system used when the records were transferred to us. These assigned docket numbers are given in brackets.

Go to Part 1: Index to Suit Records, 1804-1809

Go to the Part 2: Index to Suit Records, 1809-1813

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5/1999; revised 12/2002 -- we; revised 9/2014 -- iw

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