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New Orleans Public Library

Louisiana. Superior District Court (Orleans Parish).
Records, 1872-1877

Acquisition:   Deposited by Civil District Court, 1974
Terms of Access:   Available in-house to registered researchers.

Historical Background

Act 2 (Extra Session) of December 11, 1872 created a new court, the Superior District Court, for the parish of Orleans. The new court had the following jurisdiction:

  • exclusive jurisdiction in and for the parish of Orleans, to issue writs of injunctions, mandamuses, quo warranto, and to entertain all proceedings, and to try all cases or actions in which the right to any office, State, parish or municipal, is in any way involved.

  • exclusive original jurisdiction in and for the parish of Orleans, over all cases or proceedings in which the State of Louisiana, the municipal corporation of the city of New Orleans, the Board of Metropolitan Police, the Board of School Directors for the city of New Orleans, or any corporation established by act of the General Assembly, and domiciled in the parish of Orleans, shall be a party, or be interested, where the amount in dispute shall exceed the sum of one hundred dollars.

  • appellate jurisdiction from the justices of the peace in the parish of Orleans in all cases in which the State, the city of New Orleans, the Board of Metropolitan Police, the Board of School Directors, or any such corporation aforesaid shall be a party or be interested, and shall have power to issue writs of prohibition, injunction, mandamus and certiorari in aid of such appellate jurisdiction.

The act also provided for suits pending in other Orleans Parish courts, as well as some in other parishes, to be transferred to the Superior District Court, if such suits would subsequently fall under the new court's jurisdiction. Included were suits from the Seventh and Eighth District Courts, both of which were abolished by the act.

The judge and clerk of Superior District Court were to be initially appointed by the Governor. On expiration of their terms in office, the positions would be filled by election. The judge was empowered to name the minute clerk for the Court and to appoint a stenographer.

Superior District Court operated for not much longer than four years. In March 1876, the Legislature passed a bill repealing the 1872 act, thereby abolishing the Court. The Governor, however, did not sign the bill, and it was not until March 1877 that the legislation took effect as Act 61 of that year (Act 20 of 1877, passed in February, had made it possible for unsigned legislation to become law). In addition to abolishing the Court, Act 61 further provided for the disposition of suits, both pending and completed, on its dockets. City and state tax suits were transferred according to the last names of the defendants as follows: A-E to Third District Court, F-K to Fourth District Court, L-O to Fifth District Court, and P-Z to Sixth District Court. New tax suits were to be divided among the other courts, also according to the same scheme. All pending non-tax suits were transferred to Third District Court, as were the records for all completed suits.

Scope Note

The Superior District Court, like the Seventh and Eighth District Courts that preceded it, was wrapped up in the political turmoil that prevailed in Louisiana and New Orleans during Reconstruction. It was established during the period following Governor Henry Clay Warmoth's impeachment and subsequent suspension from office, during which P.B.S. Pinchback, Warmoth's lieutenant governor, occupied the chief executive's office--a good indication of how politically charged it was. It was abolished several years later by one of the two competing legislatures sitting in the State and uncertainty as to its status persisted for months. A scholarly assessment of the operations and significance of the state courts during Reconstruction is needed; until then, the following brief look at some Superior District Court suit records will provide some insight into what the body was all about.

These suits were selected more or less at random, one from each of the fourteen boxes in which they reside:

  • #344, James Skerrett vs Board of Metropolitan Police

    Originally intended for filing in the 8th District Court on a printed form by attorney R. King Cutler, this was a suit (filed on December 23, 1872) for payment of salary due Skerrett for his past service as a police officer in New Orleans. He also sought reimbursement for three winter and two summer uniforms that he purchased for the job along with various other equipment. The Board answered Cutler's petition, claiming that Skerrett had been fired for cause (providing some detail) and had actually been paid for his service in discounted warrants. The Court ruled in favor of the Board. There was a motion to appeal to the Supreme Court, but there is no record of any further proceedings.

  • #820, H.C. Warmoth vs P.B.S. Pinchback

    The suit was originally filed in 8th District Court on December 10, 1872, claiming that on December 9, Pinchback tried forcibly to take possession of the Governor's office in the State House. It asks for an injunction against Pinchback and the judge so ordered. Pinchback persisted and Warmoth continued in his efforts to have him removed; his signed testimony is included in the record. Pinchback ignored a subsequent order to appear to answer charges of contempt. The record includes his letter, signed as "Lieut. Governor, Acting Governor," noting that since the 8th District Court no longer existed, he was in no way obligated to obey its orders.

  • #2756, Mary Dermody, wife of/and Patrick Gallagher vs W.P. Harper, Civil Sheriff, et al.

    Filed on April 7, 1873 asking for an injunction against the sheriff to stop the sale of Dermody's grocery store at Magazine and Delachaise Streets to satisfy a judgment against her husband in a Jefferson Parish court. Included in the record is a copy of Gallagher's bankruptcy decree from U.S. District Court #786, in Bankruptcy.

  • #6036, New Orleans Bay Island Fruit Co. vs John Poppleton, J.E. Nelson, et al.

    Filed on June 26, 1973 seeking to prevent Poppleton & Nelson from proceeding further against the Company in 6th District Court. The Company's petition was signed by its president, Joseph P. Machecha. Initially, the court issued an injunction against the 6th District Court proceeding but later ruled in favor of the defendants.

  • #9244, Pearce & Mathers vs Polycarpe Fortier

    Filed on October 16, 1873 by Joseph H. Pearce and John Mathers, Jr., members of a commercial brokerage firm. The matter concerned a promissory note that had been discounted by Fortier. He refused to accept the firm's check in payment of the note and intended to sell City of New Orleans Improvement Bonds to secure payment instead. Some detail on the mechanics of such financial dealings is included in the record.

  • #25857, Joseph Lyons vs A. W. Cooper et al.

    Filed on December 26, 1873 concerning the property at #68 Girod St. Lyons claimed that Cooper and a local constable were trying to deprive him of his rightful occupancy of the premises. The court initially issued an injunction to stop them, but later ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and dissolves the injunction. Included in the record is testimony concerning the security put up for the injunction bond. Also included is copy of ordinance #1823, Administrative Series, apparently unrelated to the matter at hand.

  • #25924, Mrs. Widow Barbara Schlogel vs Mrs. Lacoste

    Filed on March 11, 1874 claiming that Lacoste owed $600 for back rent of #172 Customhouse Street. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. Included in the record is a note from Lacoste enclosing partial payment of court costs in the matter. Also filed with the record is an apparently unrelated copy of the published 1849 Charter of the Louisiana State Bank.

  • #26087, City of New Orleans vs P. Fortier et al.

    Filed on July 21, 1874, with the City asking the Court to order Fortier to stop interfering with its rights to manage the port of New Orleans, specifically in the section between Peters (now Jefferson) and Lowerline Street. Fortier's objection was to the City's demand that he pay for the right to moor coal boats or barges in the River. It does not appear that the Court made a final judgment in the matter.

  • #26480, Silas Weeks & Co. vs New Orleans Elevator and Warehouse Co.

    Filed on April 30, 1875 by Weeks & Co. seeking payment for the loss of cottonseed oil that leaked from the defendant's storage facility. The petition and answer contain interesting detail about the claim, but no final judgment appears in the record.

  • #26706, Hill et al. vs George Shorey

    Filed on September 13, 1875 with James D. Hill, Benjamin R. Forman, and the administrator of James A. Willard's succession alleging that Shorey was attempting to lay claim to lumber and timber that they owned laying in the Mississippi & Mexican Gulf Canal and the Mississippi River in St. Bernard Parish. They asked for, and received, an injunction against Shorey who, in turn, argued that the property belonged to him and that it was losing value while in the water during the period that the injunction was in effect. He further claimed that the matter was also under litigation before the 5th District Court and that the injunction should be lifted. There is no final judgment in the record. Also filed, in error, among the suit documents is a single item from #27706.

  • #26796, F.J. Stokes vs Isidore Newman et al.

    Filed on October 13, 1875 by Stokes, who was the parish judge for Grant Parish in North Louisiana. He had given a warrant for his salary as judge to Newman, who refused to give him "due consideration" for same. Stokes sought an injunction to force Newman to either return the warrant or pay him what was due. Newman answered that he had advanced and lent various sums to Stokes while holding the warrant and that it should remain in his hands until those amounts had been paid back. He subpoenabeneed Newman's books to find evidence in support of his claim. Newman requested a new trial, but there is nothing in the record to show what happened thereafter. An unrelated document from #26862 is also filed in the record.

  • #27091, E. Gardiner vs Philadelphia Fire Co. #14

    Filed ca. May 1876 following a ruling by the First Justice of the Peace in Gardiner's favor (that matter had been filed on March 11, 1876, claiming back pay for services with the fire company). The fire company filed an exception with Superior District Court, claiming that the Justice of the Peace had no jurisdiction in the matter, since the company was a corporation formed under the laws of the state of Louisiana, and requesting a new trial. The Court ended the matter by affirming the Justice of the Peace's ruling in favor of Gardiner.

  • #27159, Lewis Fishel vs Mrs. J.W. Lincoln

    Filed on May 17, 1876 concerning lot #15 in square 106 (bounded by Laurel, Constance, St. Mary, and St. Andrew Streets). Fishel was high bidder at a sheriff's sale and asked that he be put in possession of the property following expiration of the required redemption period. The Court ruled in Fishel's favor and ordered that the property be turned over to him; that was done on July 3, 1876. Also filed with the record is a document in the apparently unrelated suit of The Sons of David and the Daughters of Rebecca vs Lafabe Pemmbrick (sp?) and a business card for George H. Braughn, Attorney at Law, with a handwritten note on reverse.

  • #59953, City of New Orleans vs B. Zay

    Filed on June 3, 1874 by the City, asking that an injunction be issued to prevent Zay from operating a coffee house at 84 Peters Street in the Third District due to non-payment of the license fee. A note from the sheriff, dated June 11, 1874, indicates that Zay was out of business by that time.


The records are arranged in series as follows, all of which are records of the regular business of the court:
Suit Records
Minute Books
General Docket
Defendants' Index to General Docket
Special Dockets
Judgments in City and State Tax Suits

Detailed Description of the Records


Suit Records, 1872-1877

Manuscript records of the proceedings in the civil suits filed before the Superior District Court. Individual suit records range in size from one or two sheets in the simpler matters to hundreds of documents in the more complicated litigations. Records may include some or all of the following items: petitions, answers, oaths, bonds, transcripts of testimony, and orders & judgments of the court [in some cases the orders and judgments appear as separate documents, more common though was the practice of recording such judicial actions on the reverse of the original petition(s)]. Various articles of evidence may also be filed in individual suit records, including such items as newspaper clippings, plans, copies of original documents filed elsewhere, letters, and accounts/extracts from accounts from various financial records.

This court contains a great many tax-related cases. In many cases, no suit record was generated, but only a page in a tax judgment book; the judgment book contains no details, since the cases were cut-and-dried proceedings in which the City or State sued someone for non-payment of taxes.

There are fourteen boxes of suit records for Superior District Court, #1-95883. Box 14, though, contains #27545-95883, with many large gaps.

Access to these records is through the general docket book and the index thereto.

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Minute Books, 1872/12/14-1877/01/04
7 v   [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Bound manuscript volumes in which the daily minutes of the court's proceedings were entered by the clerk. The "missing" volume 3 minutes will be found in volume 5 of the Eighth District Court Minute Books.

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General Docket, 1875/01/14-1877/01/04
1 v.

There are no general dockets for the first two years of the court. The single extant volume begins with docket #26318 and ends with #27714. The remainder of the book includes entries for state tax suits in 1878 (#1-826), beyond the time period of Superior District Court's existence, so probably for suits filed in Third District Court.

The general docket is typical of such records for Orleans Parish civil courts. The general dockets are arranged in numerical order by docket number. Each page is divided into rectangular sections so that one docket entry appears in each section. At the head of each entry is the docket number, names of the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) in the suit, date of initial filing, the name(s) of the attorney(s) representing the parties to the suit, and in some instances a brief note as to the type of suit. Beneath the heading is a dated list of the actions taken in the suit (e.g., petitions, answers, orders, documents filed, copies made, record withdrawn, judgments, etc.), along with the court costs incurred for each action.

The state tax suit entries, again unrelated to Superior District Court, include suit number, name of defendant, and date filed (not included in the later entries). No additional information is included in these entries.

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Defendants' index to general docket, 1872/12/17-1877/01/04
1 v.

The cover indicates that the first suit referenced in the index is #13, but actually #1-12 are also included.


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Special Dockets


City tax docket, 1873/01/06-1875/06/21
2 v. [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Arranged in numerical order by docket number. Each page is divided into rectangular sections so that one docket entry appears in each section. At the head of each entry is the docket number, name of the defendant in the suit, and date of initial filing. Beneath the heading is a dated list of the actions taken in the suit. There appears to be a missing volume, covering part of 1874-1875 (#60072-80499).


State tax docket, 1873/01/09-1876/12/11
5 v. [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Arranged in numerical order by docket number. Each page is divided into rectangular sections so that one docket entry appears in each section. At the head of each entry is the docket number, name of the defendant in the suit, and date of initial filing. Beneath the heading is a dated list of the actions taken in the suit. Volume 1 also includes entries for Eighth District Court and volume 2 includes entries for Fourth District Court (both noted on the old catalog card). The volume for part of 1874-1875 (#47317-95076) appears to be missing. The final volume listed on the old catalog card dates from after Superior District Court ceased to exist; it is probably for Third District Court.


Execution docket, 1873/04/28-1880/04/23
1 v.

Includes the number and title of each suit, date judgment rendered, amount of judgment, date judgment signed, date of FiFa (fieri facias, or writ for execution of judgment), signature of attorney(s), and remarks. Not all items are entered on the docket for all suits.


Subpoena docket, 1873/01/08-1877/01/05
1 v.

The first seventeen pages are actually Judicial Record Book entries for Eighth District Court, 1870/04/09-1870/05/13, representing nine of that court's suits. The subpoena docket entries began thereafter and include suit number, names of plaintiffs & defendants, date, name(s) of attorney(s), and names & addresses of witnesses to be subpoenaed. Occasionally there are pasted in letters or notes from attorneys requesting that certain individuals be issued subpoenas. Also included are notes such as "issued," "not issued," "do not issue," and indications of other actions taken.

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Judgments in City and State Tax Suits


Judgments rendered in city tax suits, 1873-1876
26 v. [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Printed forms: suit number, defendant's name, date of default, amount condemned to pay, description of the taxed property, date judgment rendered & signed, and the judge's signature. There are apparent gaps as indicated on the old catalog cards.


Judgments rendered in state tax suits, 1873-1874
5 v. [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Printed forms: suit number, defendant's name, date of default, amount condemned to pay, description of the taxed property, date judgment rendered & signed, and the judge's signature.

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