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History

In the early days of the Western District of Louisiana, a judge asked a witness to hold up his right hand to take the oath. "Can't do it, sir," answered the man. "Why not?" asked the judge. "Got shot in that arm, sir." "Then hold up your left," declared the judge. The man replied he had been shot in that arm too. "Then," said the judge sternly, "you must hold up your leg. No man can be sworn in this court without holding up something." (As quoted in Maude Hern O'Pry, Chronicles of Shreveport, p. 259.)

In those days, Louisiana was still a new territory as part of the Louisiana Purchase. By Act of March 26, 1804, Congress created a superior and lesser court having jurisdiction over the new territory. Provision also was made at the time for a federal court to be established in the Territory of Orleans, present day southern Louisiana. On April 12, 1812, Louisiana became a state and was established as a unified judicial district.

On May 3, 1823, however, the state was divided by Congress into separate judicial districts with the Western District having its headquarters at Opelousas. At the time, the district shared a judge with the Eastern District. Strangely, the districts were reunited for a while beginning in 1845, but were divided again four years later. After the Civil War, Louisiana again became a unified District until the Act of Congress of March 3, 1881, which established the present Western District of Louisiana. Today, the District has its headquarters in Shreveport.

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A Colorful History

The first United States Attorney for the territory was James Brown who was appointed on March 11, 1805. Brown, married to the sister of Mrs. Henry Clay, began the practice of law in the State of Kentucky where he became Secretary of State in 1792. Brown later moved to the Territory of Orleans where he became Secretary of the Territory in 1804. In 1812, he served in the Louisiana constitutional convention, and won election as United States Senator in 1813. From 1823 to 1829 Brown served as the Minister to France.

John R. Grymes became United States Attorney in 1811, and reflected the colorful history of the Territory. One account of his life stated that he was involved in several duels and enjoyed elegant living with a taste for gambling. Grymes also served as personal counsel to Andrew Jackson during the Battle of Orleans.

Other noted former United States Attorneys for the Western District of Louisiana included Henry Boyce, an immigrant from Ireland. Boyce had become United States Attorney in March of 1849, but served only two months before President Taylor appointed him United States District Judge. Boyce's successor, Lawrence P. Crain, had served as mayor of Shreveport before his appointment as United States Attorney. Several of those who became United States Attorneys for the Western District had served as the City Attorney for the City of Shreveport, including George W. Jack, who was appointed in 1913. Four years later, Jack was named United States District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana.

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Major General Andrew Jackson Indicted

Andrew Jackson

A very interesting case occurred during the tenure of United States Attorney John Dick in 1815. Just after the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812, United States Attorney Dick indicted Major General Andrew Jackson on charges of obstruction of justice. Jackson also was charged with contempt of court. According to the indictment, Jackson had "...disrespectfully wrested from the clerk an original order of the honorable the judge of this court, for the issuing of a writ of habeas corpus in the case of a certain Louis Louallier, then imprisoned by the said Major General Andrew Jackson." Jackson incurred the charges of obstruction when he imprisoned the judge who had charged him with contempt. When the future President of the United States appeared in court, he refused to answer the interrogatories and promptly received a fine of $1,000 which he paid and then left the court. Leaving the courthouse, Jackson stopped and spoke to a large crowd that had gathered: I have during the invasion (of New Orleans) exerted every one of my faculties for the defense and preservation of the Constitution and the laws. On this day I have been called upon to submit to their operations, under circumstances which many persons might have thought sufficient to justify resistance Considering obedience to the laws, even when we think them unjustly applied, is the first duty of the citizen, and I do not hesitate to comply with the sentence you have heard pronounced; and I entreat you to remember the example I have given you of respectful submission to the administration of justice. (As quoted in Proceedings of the Louisiana Bar Association, 1898-1899, p. 120.)

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Complete List of U.S. Attorneys

WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

Stephanie A. Finley 2010 present
William J. Flanagan 2010 2010
Donald W. Washington 2001 2010
William J. Flanagan 2000 2001
Michael D. Skinner 1993 2000
Joseph S. Cage, Jr. 1981 1993
J. Randell Keene 1979 1981
Edward L. Shaheen 1977 1979
Donald E. Walter 1969 1977
Edward L. Shaheen 1962 1969
Thomas F. Wilson 1953 1962
William J. Fleniken, Jr. 1950 1952
Harvey L. Carey 1950  
William J. Fleniken, Sr. 1950  
Malcolm E. Lafargue 1945 1950
Harvey G. Fields 1937 1945
Benjamin F. Roberts 1935 1937
Philip H. Mecom 1922 1935
Hugh C. Fisher 1921 1922
Yandell Boatner 1921  
Joseph Moore 1917 1921
Robert A. Hunter 1917  
George W. Jack 1913 1917
E. H. Randolph 1910 19131
Milton C. Elstner 1898 1910
Charles W. Seals 1893 1898
Milton C. Elstner 1889 1893
Montfort S. Jones 1885 1889
Milton C. Elstner 1881 1885
H. B. Talliaferro 1881  
James R. Beckwith 1870  
Leon D. Marks 1860  
Floyd Walton 1856 1860
Claiborne C. Briscoe 1856  
Peter Alexander 1854 1856
Joseph H. Kilpatrick 1853 1854
Lawrence P. Crain 1850 1853
Henry Boyce 1849 1850
Caleb L. Swayze 1842 1849
Henderson Taylor 1841 1842
Benjamin F. Linton 1830 1841
John Brownson 1823 1830

DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA

John W. Smith 1821 1823
John Dick 1814 1821
Tully Robinson 1814  
John R. Grymes 1811 1814
Tully Robinson 1810 1811
Philip Grymes 1808 1810
James Brown 1805 1808

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