New Orleans Public Library
Miscellaneous Criminal Courts in New Orleans|
Partial Index to Case Files, 1846-1920
This is an artificial series of case files of matters that came before the "lower" criminal courts in Orleans Parish. Each of the courts listed here served as an "examining court," and its judges or judicial officers served as committing magistrates, whose duty was to examine the accused and witnesses and determine whether the defendant should be released for lack of evidence, sent to jail to await trial in the First District Court, the Superior Criminal Court, or, after 1880, Criminal District Court, or released on bail. In cases in which the charge fell within the criminal jurisdiction of the lower court, the court could sentence or fine the accused.
The records in this artificial series were transferred to the Louisiana Division along with the pre-1932 records of Orleans Parish criminal courts. The records of these lower courts are not extant as complete series; those records listed here probably survived only because they remained, in error, with the records of the First District Court , the Superior Criminal Court, or Criminal District Court. Some of them may or may not form part of an extant case file in those courts.
The bulk of the records covers the post-Civil War time period; only a handful exist prior to 1862. Typical charges are for offenses such as assault and battery; embezzlement and breach of trust; obtaining money or goods under false pretenses; vagrancy or being a "suspicious person"; petty larceny; pickpocketing, possessing stolen property; forgery, breaking and entering, perjury etc. However, some cases dealing with more serious crimes are also included -- shooting or wounding with intent to kill; murder; rape. A number of cases heard in 1874 involve violations of a new state act regulating the keeping of private markets.
Clearly, the fragmentary nature of this artificial series gives an incomplete picture of the history of these courts and the matters they dealt with. It does, however, provide documentation about individual cases handled in the lower courts.
The record typically includes an affidavit giving the charge, an appearance bond, and, often, testimony. Many of the records display two or more docket numbers; therefore, the docket number we chose to file the case under may be questioned.
Physically, the records are arranged in a single series by a file number assigned by the archivist. The inventory below, arranged by court, gives the docket number, name of the defendant, the charge against him/her, the date of the case, the filing number, and relevant notes.