Heart of Louisiana: La. Supreme Court
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s not only the state’s highest court, but the century-old Louisiana Supreme Court building in the french quarter is also a museum and public law library.
When this four-story marble and granite building went up in the french quarter more than a century ago, it was considered an unwelcome eyesore by some local preservationists. But, the restored home of the Louisiana Supreme Court is now part of the neighborhood landscape.
“The marble is all original and the fixtures are, many of them are original, but if they weren’t special, the effort was made to recreate the fixtures to look exactly the way they did,” said Miriam Childs.
A round staircase leads to a ceiling of stained glass. The building is open for public tours, which include the court’s museum. The portraits of the chief justices offer a lesson in diversity.
“They’re all male until you get to the chief justice, Katherine D. Kimble, who was Chief Justice in the mid-2000s. Our past chief justice, Bernette Joshua Johnson, [was] the first African American chief justice on our court. It’s a lesson on how long it took for diversity to come to the court,” explained Childs.
The court has an exhibit tracing the history of women in the law and the civil rights movement in Louisiana.
“It’s an absolutely magnificent edifice in the middle of one of the most historic and iconic neighborhoods in the entire United States,” said John Weimer.
John Weimer is the current chief justice and he encourages judges to meet with school kids and for children to visit the state’s highest court.
“When they hear from their parents that’s one thing. When they hear from their teachers, that’s another thing. But when they hear from a judge dressed in a robe with the power and authority of the court, I think they listen a little bit more carefully,” added Weimer.
The building houses the law library of Louisiana. It has thousands of legal books from around the country and a rare book collection. It’s also a public library.
“This is the Siete Partidas from 1587. It’s Spanish Law and it was in effect when Louisiana was a colony,” noted Childs.
The oldest books here in the rare book room are nearly 500 years old. There are also copies of the code noir or black code that date from the 17 hundreds
“Code Noir in a very limited way recognized the slave’s humanity,” said Childs.
The state’s Supreme Court’s library and rare books are open to researchers and to the public.
“We don’t provide legal advice, but we can help you find the legal information that you seek,” added Childs.
It’s an imposing and impressive structure in the middle of a historic neighborhood that welcomes tourists to step inside and see how this high court functions and how the laws have changed over the last few hundred years.
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