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The Unique Governing Structure of Louisiana

The Unique Governing Structure of Louisiana

Guiding Question 

 What is the civil law system? And why is Louisiana the only state to use it? 


Louisiana is a blend of cultures. African, English, French, Spanish, Native American, Haitian and many others all have shaped the State in various ways. This helps give Louisiana some unique characteristics that stand apart in the United States. For example, while almost all states have “counties,” Louisiana has what are called “parishes,” which comes from the French and Spanish Catholic influences in the area. Another characteristic of Louisiana is that it is the only state that uses a civil law system—the other 49 use what is called a common law system. What is the civil law system? And why is Louisiana the only state to use it? 



Have students read the article on the history of the Napoleonic Code, civil law, and its use in Louisiana. They should answer the following questions while reading.  

Next, have students read the article on common law and answer the related questions. 

Handout A: Napoleonic Code Graphic Organizer 


Opening Line of Paragraph  Vocabulary  Paragraph Summary in My Own Words 
The Napoleonic Code, Code Napoléon, or French Civil Code of 1804…  





enactment: creation 


Enlightenment: a movement in the 17th and 18th centuries that emphasized humans having the ability to use reason to discover truth 


prevalent: to exist commonly and widely 

The Napoleonic Code is based on Enlightenment principles and was designed to encompass many aspects of daily life 
Organizing private law into a comprehensive code…      






Civil law systems have historically adopted codification more readily…  variegated: marked by variety 


quipped: joked    







After the revolution, the push for codification grew…  integration: to bring multiple parts together into one 


fraternity: friendship around common ideas and principles  

The Napoleonic Code consequently embodied Enlightenment thinking…  sentiment: belief or feelings   
Napoleon’s singular influence proved the catalyst…  catalyst: the starting event that sets off a chain reaction 


acumen: the ability to make good decisions  

The original draft faced fierce criticism as a product of unoriginal thinking…     
The French Civil Code consists of 2,281 articles and is comprised…  successions: an outline for how property should be passed down in the event of a death    
Book I regulates institutions such as marriage, guardianship, and tutorship…  tutorship: when a person is responsible for caring for a minor    
Book II is sometimes interpreted as adopting revolutionary principles for property law…  superimposed: to replace a pre-existing thing with something new   
Book III, which has been characterized as a grab bag of various types of legal transactions…  tort: an act that leads to harm and results in a civil lawsuit 


solidarity: unity  

Although the French Civil Code was comprehensive, rational, and logical…     
Over the last two hundred years, the French Civil Code has endured…     
The French Civil Code was adopted in a variety of European jurisdictions…  emulate: copy or imitate   
Finally, the influence of the French Civil Code even extended to North America…  disseminate: spread widely   
Given the influence that the French Civil Code has had…     


Handout B: What is the Difference Between Common Law and Civil Law? Graphic Organizer


Opening Line of Paragraph  Vocabulary  Paragraph Summary in My Own Words 
As lawyers know, legal systems in countries around the world…  




  Common law and civil law are the two major systems of law around the world 
The main difference between the two systems is that…  predominate: to have greater importance 


underpinnings: the foundation of something 







The original source of the common law system can be traced…  equitable: fair    






Civil law in other European nations, on the other hand…       
In civil law countries, judges are often described…     
Lawyers still represent the interests of their clients in civil proceedings, but have a less central role…  quasi-legal professionals: partly lawyers but not fully    
In contrast, in a common law country, lawyers make presentations to the judge (and sometimes the jury) and examine witnesses themselves. The proceedings are then “refereed” by the judge… 


remedy: solution 


entity: organization or business 

As these descriptions show, lawyers almost always…     



Napoleonic Code Questions: 

  1. Why did Napoleon originally codify laws in France? What issues was the country facing? 
  2. In your own words, briefly summarize the three books of the original French Civil Code. What are the topics of each? What similarities do you notice it has with modern American laws? What differences? 
  3. Why did Louisiana adopt the French Civil Code? 


What is the Difference Between Common Law and Civil Law? Questions: 

  1. What is the role of precedent in a common law system? 
  2. In your own words, explain the differences between a common law and a civil law system. 
  3. What do you think are some benefits of each system of law? What are some drawbacks?