Last updated: October 7, 2013
Situated on the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge represents the best of Louisiana's vibrant southern culture. Louisiana's second largest city is the state capital and home to both LSU and Southern University. Known for its great people, unique food and lively music, "Red Stick" truly has something for everyone.
Louisiana's legal system is unique in the United States in that it is primarily based on the French and Spanish civil codes, as opposed to English common law. Since the only federal court in Baton Rouge deals exclusively with bankruptcy, the two main courthouses in Baton Rouge are the small-time City Court and big-time District Court, though each has specific divisions for particular types of cases. Knowing which court is appropriate for your particular issue is critical to your success, so here is a useful guide to the key courthouses in Baton Rouge.
The 19th Judicial District Courthouse is the primary trial-level court in Baton Rouge. Generally, the District Court handles major cases while the City Court handles smaller ones. The 19th JDC handles civil lawsuits, probate, criminal cases and some civil appeals. If your civil lawsuit is worth over $35,000 you will need to file with the District Court (instead of the City Court). There are two public parking garages about two blocks away, on the corner of the Government St. / St. Louis St. intersection, and a private lot located at the corner of St. Ferdinand and America St. This courthouse also houses:
The City Court is used for smaller lawsuits and minor crimes. It has criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors that are punishable by a fine of less than $1,000 or a jail term of less than six months, and civil jurisdiction over small claims (worth less than $5,000) and personal injury, contract and landlord-tenant disputes up to $35,000. Try checking the status of your case online. You can pay traffic or parking tickets in person, but save yourself the hassle and pay online instead. Their website also hosts a list of useful forms you will need for your civil lawsuit.
The Juvenile Court exclusively handles legal matters pertaining to minors, such as juvenile offenses, child custody cases, child support and determining when protective supervisory services are appropriate. The Juvenile Court works closely with the Department of Juvenile Services, so try contacting them if you have questions about juvenile legal issues.
The First Circuit Courts of Appeal is a state-level appellate court with jurisdiction over all civil appeals (including family and juvenile matters) and most criminal appeals. The Louisiana Courts of Appeal are unique in that can review questions of fact, as well as questions of law, in civil cases. Your case will not be heard in this court unless it has already been through a lower trial-level court.
As its title suggests, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court is the division of the Middle District of Louisiana that handles exclusively federal bankruptcy matters. Can’t tell Chapter 7 from 13? Try reading up on bankruptcy basics on their website. If it looks too complicated to file for bankruptcy yourself, contact one of their suggested free legal services groups who may be able to assist you.