The debate regarding whether the origin of Louisiana civil law is based in the Spanish or in the French legal tradition has been ongoing since that state’s incorporation into the United States as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. Distinguished legal scholars have argued in favor of one tradition being dominant over the other, and each has been staunch in support of that view. This article proposes and demonstrates that the Spanish, not French, civil law had an enormous influence on the creation and evolution of Louisiana civil law, and that this legacy resonates today.
The article begins with a brief historical account of the formation of Louisiana from territory to statehood. It then closely examines the contributions of Louis Casimir Elisabeth Moreau Lislet, the architect of the Digest of 1808 and the Code of 1825. Original Spanish documents and resources that were the foundation of the Digest of 1808 are analyzed and used to demonstrate how these Spanish civil law sources had a profound impact on Moreau Lislet and on the creation of Louisiana civil law. Finally the continuing evolution of Louisiana civil law and the now-famous Batiza-Pascal debate on the origins of the Louisiana civil law are carefully examined.