In addition to being the state’s highest court, the century-old Louisiana Supreme Court building in the New Orleans French Quarter is also open for tours. The four-story marble and granite building houses a museum and a public law library.
The building for Louisiana’s highest court was completed in 1910. The massive new structure displaced an entire block of old structures in the middle of the French Quarter. The move was controversial and drew the ire of preservationists who opposed the demolition and the new courthouse. Fifty years later, the Supreme Court moved to a new building next to city hall. But the newer courthouse fell into disrepair in the late 20th century.
Louisiana supreme court building restored
The state’s high court returned to its original building in 2004 after the old abandoned French Quarter courthouse was restored. The renovation was extensive according to the Supreme Court’s Law Library Director Miriam Childs. “The marble is all original. Many of the fixtures are original,” she says. Fixtures and furnishings that needed replacement, “were made to look exactly like the originals,” Childs says.
visitors are welcome
In addition to being the home of both the Louisiana Supreme Court and the state’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the restored building is also a museum. It contains portraits of all of the court’s Chief Justices. It’s interesting to note that until the 21st century, all of the top justices were men. Catherine “Kitty” Kimball became the Supreme Court’s first female Chief Justice in 2009. And she was followed by Louisiana’s first African-American Chief Justice, Bernette Joshua Johnson. “It’s a lesson in how long it took for diversity to come to the court,” says Childs.
The museum also contains papers from the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case from the 1890’s. That landmark case, ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, permitted states to continue the practice of racial segregation under the doctrine of separate but equal.
rare books in the louisiana Supreme court
The Supreme Court has a collection of rare law books, some of them dating back to the 1500’s. Those books are available for research. In addition, the court also houses a public law library that enables citizens to access a vast collection of lawbooks from Louisiana and every other state. The public is also able to access online legal resources.
louisiana supreme court featured on tv
The Louisiana Supreme Court is located at 400 Royal Street in New Orleans French Quarter. For more information, call (504) 310-2400 for the Law Library of Louisiana or (504) 310-2590 for the office of Public Information.