Louisiana Governor Seeks to Block the Appointment of the State’s First Black Supreme Court Justice
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is working overtime to stop the appointment of the first black Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. A federal judge ruled that Bernette Johnson is to succeed the state’s white chief justice, who is set to retire next year. Jindal has been fighting the judge’s decision since it was made, and the battle underscores the dark, ugly racial history of the state of Louisiana.
The constitution of the state of Louisiana says that the Chief Justice should be the person who has served the longest term as Associate Justice. That person would be Johnson, who joined the court in 1994. Oddly, Jindal is fighting to make Jeffrey Victory the next Chief Justice, even though he began his term in 1995.
But the argument is that Johnson wasn’t elected to the court. She was appointed as part of a settlement with the federal government over racial discrimination. The other members of the court (who are all white) don’t believe that Johnson has the seniority to be the next Chief Justice.
Justice Catherine Kimball tried to have all justices write briefs and then let an outside judge decide. But Johnson took her case to federal court. Jindal and the rest of his legal team don’t want the federal courts to be involved, and feel that the matter should be settled in the state of Louisiana.
“The issue on appeal is not who should serve as the next Chief Justice, but whether the Louisiana Supreme Court should be prohibited by a federal court from interpreting the state’s constitution,” he said in the statement.
Some have directly referenced the racial overtones of using terms like “state’s rights” as an excuse to invoke racist policy. Jindal’s actions imply the obvious for those who witnessed the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, during which time southern states also fought with the federal government about securing rights for African Americans.
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