There’s a lot that Napoleon Bonaparte is known for – his leadership abilities, his rise and fall, his height, his hands tucked into his coat, Josephine. In Louisiana, however, he is widely credited with enacting the Napoleonic Code, adopted from France, to guide the state’s legal system.
Bonaparte’s influence on the Louisiana civil law system intrigued Eric Tong of Denham Springs.
“I understand that the legal system here in Louisiana is different because of our French and Spanish colonial history, but what are the specific major differences that set you apart from other states? How will this affect my daily life?”, the general legal situation, the ease of doing business in Louisiana, etc.”
Ton is right. Louisiana is the only state that uses the Napoleonic Code. Ton was born in Louisiana in 1985, but spent most of his life out of state. When he returned to Louisiana in 2017, he began paying attention to the state’s civil law system and trying to understand how it differed from other states.
Ton was interested in whether Louisiana’s unique legal system affected commerce. As he explained, “because when the environment gets tough, people don’t want to invest in the place.”
To answer a ton of questions, we have to look back in history.
Melissa Lonegrass, a law professor at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center, teaches a course on Louisiana law. Similarities between common law and civil law legal traditions.
Lornegrass explained that Louisiana had a European legal system before being integrated into the United States. By the time Louisiana became a state, French law was codified in civil law. She said the Civil Code applies to private areas of law such as contracts, real estate transactions, wills, property disputes and marriage.
Louisiana’s culture is strongly linked to continental European culture, Longlas said, and the Louisiana legal community wants to maintain a civil law approach. Basically, the community has all the legal rules he put together in one place, making the laws accessible to everyone.
“We are viewed as a mixed jurisdiction rather than a purely civil law jurisdiction because we are clearly influenced by the US common law system,” Longras said. “We may be tackling the problem differently than other states, but more often than not we reach the same results — just using different means.”
One distinct difference between civil and common law is the concept of compulsory inheritance. In other states, when a person dies, they can leave a will that gives their property to anyone, including children, surviving spouses, or charities. But if that person wishes not to inherit his children, he can do so.
In Louisiana, civil law traditions require states to follow compulsory inheritance and leave certain portions of property to their own children, Longlas said. Before the rule changed in the 1990s, if you had one child, you had to leave a quarter of your estate to your children, and if you had two or more, you had to leave half of your estate to them, regardless of their age. did not.
Longlas said the law was changed due to Louisiana’s desire to reduce differences with other states. Today, the law requires property to be left to a child if the child is under the age of 24 or if the child suffers from a disability that does not allow them to live independently.
When it comes to doing business in Louisiana, Loneglass said doing business is no more difficult than in any other state. Instead, the intricacies of civil law are of more concern to legal professionals than to corporations and entrepreneurs.
“There are some differences [with civil law], but that doesn’t make Louisiana weird or crazy,” said Lee Ann Lockridge, interim dean and law professor at the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center. “Frankly, the laws in Louisiana are easier for citizens to understand.”