What is that Courthouse We’re Racing to? The 19th Judicial District
You may have heard the expression “the race to the courthouse”. It suggests that it is important to your success in litigation to get there first. Whether or not this is true in any given situation, most Louisiana residents have never been to one, except perhaps as prospective jurors. What is “the courthouse” anyway and what happens there?
Simply put, a courthouse is the place in which a court meets. Our state has hundreds of them. In Louisiana, there are many different kinds of courts and each type has the power or “subject matter jurisdiction” to hear particular types of disputes. If you are involved in a dispute involving divorce, custody, support or marital property, your case will be filed, in most cases, in what is called a “district court”.
The “Nineteenth Judicial District” consists of East Baton Rouge Parish. The courthouse is located in downtown Baton Rouge close to the metroplex. It is easily accessible by car. Like most Louisiana district courthouses, including the 23rd Judicial District, you must pass through security. The screening process takes time and there is no way to tell in advance how long it will take. To make sure you are on time for any hearing, leave home or work early. You will need time to park, be screened, and find your way to the right floor and courtroom.
Unlike the 23rd Judicial District, the 19th Judicial District has a Family Court with specially elected family court judges to hear family matters.
In most instances, including domestic matters, Louisiana litigants are entitled to ask a higher court to review a district judge’s decision. Sometimes there is the right to an appeal. For such reviews and appeals, litigants go to an appellate court. Louisiana has five courts of appeal – each one has jurisdiction over a specific geographical area of the state. Decisions rendered by the judges of the 23rd Judicial District are reviewed by the First Circuit Court of Appeal located in Baton Rouge near the state capitol building. In most cases, the Louisiana Supreme Court is the final opportunity for appellate review. Litigants who are unhappy with a court of appeal’s decision or with its refusal to review their case may petition the Louisiana Supreme court to do so. Only cases that satisfy certain criteria are reviewed by the Louisiana Supreme Court.
As your lawyer navigates you through the judicial system in your contested family matter, you should bear in mind that there is no perfect solution to your problems. Making the most out of what is a bad situation will require maturity, perseverance, and patience. You should usually take the long view – particularly where your children are concerned. Your race through the courthouse is sometimes better won as the tortoise than as the hare.