As many residents of New Orleans probably know, admiralty and maritime law refers to the statutes and legal doctrines covering ships and conduct on the ocean, including both coastal waters belonging to the United States and the high seas, also called “international waters.” What some might not know is that the Founders of the United States contemplated that the federal government would be involved in admiralty law and maritime law decisions, as the Constitution itself specifically mentions that federal courts have the power to hear cases involving legal questions stemming from conduct on the ocean.

Other provisions of the Constitution give the federal government authority over admiralty and maritime law. For instance, the Constitution’s commerce clause allows Congress to pass laws regulating trade that, presumably, would entail shipping and passenger transport over the ocean. Moreover, even at the time the Constitution was adopted, there was already an established tradition of admiralty law which the United States had borrowed from Great Britain and other sources.

On a practical level, what this means is that a Louisiana resident who has a question or legal problem involving admiralty or maritime law will need some familiarity with how to work with federal statutes and regulations, as well as how to deal with different federal agencies and the federal courts. Dealing with these matters can be quite daunting, so many admiralty questions are better handled by an experienced admiralty and maritime legal professional.

Such a legal professional, sometimes called a “proctor” rather than an “attorney,” can help secure a person’s rights and make sure that person understands all of his or her legal options. Those who choose to forego the assistance of such a professional may risk putting their legal rights in jeopardy.