What is attorney-client privilege?
That means the information you share with your attorney is confidential between the two of you. Your attorney may not share any information with anyone without your permission, including your parents.
The information you share with the judge is not covered by this privilege. The sections below explain how the hearing works before the judge.
Do I have to use the lawyer the court appoints to me?
If you do not seek an attorney ahead of time, the court will appoint an attorney for you the day you show up for the hearing. You have the option of getting a volunteer attorney to represent you ahead of time as described in the Guide. The Louisiana Judicial Bypass Project attorneys are familiar with the judicial bypass process and are supportive of the rights of minors to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.
Will it cost me anything to get a lawyer or meet with a judge?
Filing as an “indigent” minor means it will not cost you anything to get a lawyer or meet with the judge.
What happens at the hearing with the judge?
The judge will ask you and your attorney questions. You will be asked to identify yourself and you will be asked questions under oath (meaning you are swearing to tell the truth). After the hearing, you may be asked to wait in the waiting room until the order has been signed and a copy has been made for you. If the judge grants your request, you take this copy to the doctor or clinic where the abortion will be performed.
The hearing is usually informal and like a meeting. It is not a trial.
The judge usually wears a regular suit, and in many courts, the judge sits with you and your lawyer around a desk or table. There is no jury and no lawyer on the other side against you. The hearing typically does not last long.
Who will be at the hearing?
You, your attorney, the judge, the court reporter, and whomever you bring with you. The court reporter’s job is to transcribe this hearing (write down everything that is said). This is always done at court. It is for the court to have its own record of the proceeding and to use, if you wish, to appeal the judge’s decision.
Is the judge allowed to tell my parents I am seeking an abortion and judicial bypass?
The law does allow the judge to notify your parents if he or she decides not to grant the bypass. This is a risk you will be taking. It is up to the judge whether or not to notify parents in the case of a denial of judicial bypass. The judge may, but does not have to, notify your parents if he or she denies this petition.
What does the judge have to decide?
The judge is considering whether you are sufficiently mature and informed enough to make the decision to have an abortion on your own. If yes, the judge gives you permission to have an abortion. If the judge finds you are not mature and knowledgeable enough, the judge considers a second question: Would an abortion be in your best interest? If the judge thinks an abortion would be in your best interest, he or she will grant the judicial bypass.
What kinds of questions will I have to answer?
The judge may want to know that you understand the abortion procedure, that you have thought carefully about your decision, are certain that this is your choice , and that no one is forcing you to do terminate the pregnancy. The judge might also want to know about your other responsibilities at home, school, or work, or plans for the future that show your maturity.
The judge will probably ask many personal questions. He or she will be trying to determine whether you are sufficiently mature and knowledgeable to make your own decision to have an abortion or if it is in your best interest. The judge will probably want to know about your relationship with your parents, how you are doing in school, how you got pregnant, and may ask about the father, his presence in your life, and how he might be present in the child’s life. The judge may also question you in detail on your decision process about seeking an abortion.
How long will it take the judge to decide?
You can request to have your hearing immediately, on the same day as filing your application at court.
What should I do if the judge rules in my favor?
The judge will give you an order giving you permission to have an abortion. You must take this order with you when you go for the abortion, along with any other forms or identification required by your abortion provider.
What if I change my mind?
At any point, you are always free to change your mind if you decide you do not want to have an abortion. The order is just there so that you may have the abortion if you want it.
What can I do if the judge rules against me?
If your application is denied, you have a right to appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court. Again, you can contact a volunteer attorney through the process above, or go to the Juvenile Court again and ask for the appeal forms and procedure. You fill out this form and the process will start over again.
How do I get to the courthouse?
Directions to the Civil District Courthouse can be found by clicking this link. The Courthouse is also accessible by the Loyola-UPT streetcar line and several RTA bus routes. See the RTA website for more information on bus routes.
Do you have copies of the guide in other languages?
A Spanish language version of the guide can be accessed here.