MARCH 16, 1940


This organization originated in a movement, initiated here at L.S.U. in 1933, to establish an institute dedicated to law revision, law reform and legal research. Due to economic reasons that project was postponed until April, 1938, when the Board of Supervisors authorized its revival, under its present name. The Legislature, later in the year, chartered, created and organized it as "an official, advisory law revision commission, law reform agency and legal research agency of the State of Louisiana."

The purposes of the Institute are declared by the Legislature to be: "to promote and encourage the clarification and simplification of the law of Louisiana and its better adaptation to present social needs; to secure the better administration of justice and to carry on scholarly legal research and scientific legal work."

This is the first time in the history of the State that legislative recognition has been given to a long recognized need and an adequate organization established to meet it.


The great jurists who drafted our Civil Code of 1825 appreciated the imperfections of their own work, and realized that time would demonstrate its errors and inadequacies. Accordingly they recommended in, a preliminary report to the general assembly that where the Code was silent, the judge should decide as an amicable compounder, the decision to be reported to the Legislature, and then to stand as a precedent only if adopted by the Legislature. They also proposed that reports of ordinary cases of construction be reported to the Legislature by a commissioned officer, to enable it to explain the ambiguities, supply deficiencies and correct errors discovered by the test of experience in operation. By these means they believed that:

"The whole body of our jurisprudence being brought under the inspection of the general assembly, they will be enabled by a comprehensive view of the whole ground of legislation, to avoid the inroads on the unity of its design which have been made by statutes hastily passed for local or temporary purposes . . ."

This process of constant revision, through judicial reports and recommendations, failed because no suitable organization was adopted to give it direction, and with respect to the Civil Code that unity of design so earnestly sought by its drafters has been seriously affected by hastily passed legislation without proper preparation.

Law reform and law revision should be the results of careful preparation, based on adequate research, thorough study and impartial discussion. The great civil law institutions have followed the same general pattern in their confection. Familiar examples are the redaction of the Customs of France, the preparation and adoption of the Code Napoleon, and the drafting and enactment of our own Civil Code.

That process has not been possible in Louisiana for many years, due to a lack of time, and a proper forum where projets of laws may be examined and discussed by lawyers, scholars, judges and legislators in the light of their knowledge and experience. Furthermore the Legislature is not adequately, constitutionally organized for that purpose, since it meets only biennially, exclusive of extraordinary sessions, and then for only 60 days.


This Institute is designed then as an adjunct to the Legislature, but solely in an advisory capacity. Its duties in that connection are specified in the act of its creation. It is explicitly required to consider needed improvements in the law and to make recommendations concerning them; to study the civil law with a view to discovering defects and inequities and recommending needed reforms; to receive, consider and make recommendations concerning law reforms proposed by associations and learned societies such as the American Law Institute and the Bar Associations, to recommend from time to time such changes in the law as it deems necessary to modify or eliminate antiquated and inequitable rules of law, and to bring the law of the State of Louisiana, both civil and criminal, into harmony with modern conditions. It is required to make biennial reports to the Legislature and if it deems advisable, to accompany its reports with bills to carry out its recommendations.

In its relationship to the Legislature, then, this Institute acts solely and only in an advisory capacity.

Its statutory duty is to recommend, when its own research, or the study of the proposals of other kindred organizations, indicate such action.


In addition, it is purposed to so develop the organization of the Institute that it may conduct special research for the Legislature and its individual members, at their request, on matters of legislative interest. In that respect, there is a great opportunity to render valuable service. In the past, commissions have been appointed to draft Codes on special subjects, such as the Criminal Code and the Mineral Code, neither of which was adopted. It may be that hereafter the Legislature will intrust the preparation of the projets of such Codes to the Institute. Its organization is designed for that purpose. The respect of the Legislature for the work of the Institute must be earned, however, through the fidelity with which it discharges the duties imposed upon it by statute, and its recommendations must always result from thorough study and research, and full, free and non-partisan discussion.


The Institute is likewise required to study the jurisprudence, along with the statutes, with a view to recommending needed reforms. Much hastily considered legislation heretofore has resulted from attempts to correct defects or imperfections brought to light in contested cases. This organization should be able to approach the solution of such problems with method and precision and weigh them in the light of the experience and knowledge of its members.

In time it may come to perform the functions of a judicial council, and be of material assistance to the courts by the preparation of scientific and orderly studies of procedure and the work of the courts.


The Act likewise makes it a duty of the Institute to make available translations of civil law materials and commentaries and to provide by studies and doctrinal writings, materials for the better understanding of the civil law of Louisiana and the philosophy upon which it is based.

Of all the civil law institutions, the Civil Code of Louisiana is the only one which has not been largely developed and expanded by the writings of eminent legal scholars and jurists, generally referred to as "doctrine." An eminent French professor has said that doctrine plays the same role in law that public opinion does in politics. Here in Louisiana, generally speaking, we have no doctrine except that to be found in the Tulane Law Review started several years ago, and the Louisiana Law Review, now in its second year.

In France, the modern commentaries on the Code Napoleon, such as Baudry-Lacantinerie and Planiol and Ripert, are not individual products, but are the result of the organized efforts of several co-authors. The field is too large to be tilled by one man. Therefore, this Institute will seek to organize the work of the law faculties and of the bench and bar to the end that we shall some day have our own Louisiana doctrine, contained in commentaries comparable to those of France.

Some of the materials with which we must work are contained in our own books, some of which are so rare as to be generally inaccessible. Many, of course, are in other languages of which no translations are available. Already much work has been done to remedy some of these difficulties. Special reports will be made later today concerning these projects.

The organization of the Institute is planned to facilitate the performance of its duties, and the accomplishment of its purposes, in the spirit of its planning.



The governing body is the Council consisting of ex-officio members and elected members. It is representative of all branches of the state government, and of the entire legal profession. The executive is represented by the Attorney General and the executive counsel to the Governor, and the Legislature is represented by the chairman of each judiciary committee of both the House and the Senate, who serve ex-officio.

The Judiciary is represented by one Justice of the Supreme Court, one judge from the Courts of Appeal, one district judge, and one federal judge residing in Louisiana, all of whom are elected members.

Organizations are represented by the presidents of the Louisiana State Bar Association and the State Bar of Louisiana, and any Louisiana members on the Council of the American Law Institute who are ex-officio members.

The Law Schools are represented by their deans, who are ex-officio members, and three members from each faculty, who are elected members.

The Bar is represented by eleven practicing members, who are elected members.


The Council has the authority under the Act to provide rules for the organization, government and operation of the Institute, and to determine and elect officers. That it has done by the adoption of By-Laws. It has adopted a plan of membership which in terms of the Act, it believes to be "so designed as to encourage and unite the cooperation of all members of the legal profession in the work of the Institute."

The By-Laws provide for 150 members, in addition to the Council, nominated by the Membership Committee, and elected by the Council. All judges of the District Courts and Courts of Appeal, all federal judges in Louisiana, and all Justices of the Supreme Court are associate members, as are all members of the Legislature who are lawyers.

The past year has not been without its difficulties. I must acknowledge that they have been largely overcome and that the work achieved has been accomplished only because of the unselfish, wholehearted and thoughtful cooperation of all concerned with the organization and work of the Institute.

The Louisiana State Law Institute is one of the very first organizations of its kind in this country. It is conceived in a spirit of cooperation, and is dedicated to public service. It is chartered by the Legislature, in terms which must challenge the interest of the entire legal profession of the State. May its achievements be equal to its opportunities and its obligations.

Louisiana State Law Institute | Room W-127 | Paul M. Hebert Law Center | Baton Rouge, LA 70803 | 225-578-0200