Tracking Louisiana´s Legal Heritage:
 Celebrating 200 Years of the Federal Courts in Louisiana
 
 

District Judge Henry A. Mentz Jr.

Henry A. Mentz Jr., who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, served as a United States federal judge until he retired from the bench on December 31, 2001. He died on January 23, 2005.

Judge Mentz was born in New Orleans in 1920, and lived in Hammond, Louisiana, from 1928 until 1982. When he was 16 years old, Tulane University awarded him a scholarship. In 1941 he graduated with distinction with a B.A. from Tulane University. He received an LL.B. in 1943 from Louisiana State University Law School, where he was a member of the law review.

Upon graduation from law school, Judge Mentz immediately enlisted as a private in the Army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and in central Germany. He was awarded two Battle Stars and the Bronze Star. His battalion and company liberated vital strategic sectors and several concentration camps during World War II. After the war he served in the JAG Corps. Upon his return home, he practiced law in Hammond, and later served as a staff attorney of the Shell Oil Company from 1947 to 1948. He then served as Special Counsel to the state senate at the request of Governor Earl Long. From 1954 to 1961, Judge Mentz served as city attorney for Hammond.

Judge Mentz handled many precedent-setting cases including one of the very first mass tort class actions seeking punitive damages, In re: Shell Oil Refinery, for which he received national recognition. Other notable cases were Zapata Gulf Marine Corp. v. Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping Authority, et al., a private antitrust suit, and United States v. MMR Corp. et al, a criminal case of bid-rigging conspiracy. Judge Mentz’s signature patience and courtesy served him well in these complex cases, some of which lasted over six weeks.

As a Senior Judge, Judge Mentz served as a visiting federal judge in major cities across the United States -- Boston, New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. As a jurist, Judge Mentz wrote, published, and edited several hundred legal opinions and articles. As an academician and scholar, he edited and published research on the Bible. His book, The Combined Gospels, was published in 1975.

Judge Mentz devoted substantial efforts over his lifetime to legal, academic, government, charity, and community service. He was active in community life as a board member of the Salvation Army in New Orleans; President of the Louisiana Civil Service League; and President of The Multi Parish Bar Association on the Northshore. He also provided legal assistance to minorities; created and chaired indigent pro-bono organizations in Louisiana; served as a board member of Southeastern Louisiana University; served Loyola University New Orleans in various capacities; designated a large scholarship fund for Loyola Law School; and served on several boards and committees for Tulane University. Judge Mentz also served on the Executive Committee of the Council for a Better Louisiana and served two terms on the board of directors of WYES, a New Orleans public television station. Judge Mentz also was active in forestation and tree farming for 40 years. His church community elected him to serve in several capacities. Judge Mentz was president of the Louisiana Council for Music and the Performing Arts from 1995 to 1996 and recipient of the AMVETS Distinguished Services Award in 1950.