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What Is Unique About Louisiana Law?

Posted on Jan 16, 2019 in Legislation, Local Issues

Did you know that the Law of Louisiana is unique from all other state laws in the US? It’s true! That’s because whereas the other 49 states base their interpretation of the law on what is referred to as “common law,” Louisiana law derives from Napoleonic Code. To learn why this is, we have to look back in history a little bit. Louisiana adopted its laws from the French and Spanish who colonized and inhabited the land before America purchased it. Common law, on the other hand, originates from Great Britain and was brought over to America during the colonial period. Other countries once colonized by Britain still use common law, like Australia, India, Israel, and more. Though it’s the exception in America, Napoleonic code—or its contemporary manifestation, commonly referred to as “civil law”—is actually one of the more common forms of legal jurisprudence globally. Louisiana’s brand of civil law is a composite of the French and Spanish versions. There’s still some debate among legal historians as to the extent of the Spanish influence.

Okay, but what does it mean?

History lessons are fun, but what’s it all mean for us in the day-to-day? In theory, the primary differences between civil and common law lie in the implementation and interpretation of the law. Common law employs what’s known as stare decisis, which is latin for “to stand by things decided.” This legal principle relies on precedence for verdicts, where the outcome of similar cases can impact present ones. Civil law is more codified, relying on direct interpretation of the law or legistlation applicable to the specific legal situation. Another way to put it might be that Louisiana law—and civil law in general—can allow more for individual judges’ interpretation of the law to hold sway over a more objective or historical understanding of the law.

But what does it mean mean? I mean what does it mean for me?

Fair question. In modern law, at the end of the day, these discrepancies in jurisprudence don’t amount to huge differences in implementation. Louisiana’s criminal justice system ultimately looks a lot like the criminal justice systems in many other states. The most notable differences are found in nomenclature and procedure. It means that certain legal concepts and laws that are called one thing in the rest of the country, get called something else in Louisiana. For example, statute of limitations is a statute instating a period of restrictions for bringing certain kinds of legal action, as in personal injury cases. In Louisiana we call it prescription, but it means the same thing. The most notable difference in procedure comes in the sphere of trust and estates law, real estate law, and inheritance. In Louisiana, we call this Succession and Donations, where it’s Trust and Estates in the rest of the country. Much of the legality surrounding the way land and property is passed down is unique to Louisiana.

For Louisiana Law You Need a Louisiana Lawyer

Above all, what all this means is that if you have a legal issue to deal with in Louisiana, always make sure you hire local Louisiana attorneys who understand the in’s and out’s of our unique brand of law. Though the differences can sometimes be small or nuanced, they can sometimes have impactful ramifications on legal proceedings. The experienced lawyers at Bloom Legal have been serving the greater New Orleans area for a decade and a half. Call us today for a free consultation, and let us answer any questions you might have and start building an individualized strategy for your case.

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