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Struggle In La. Over Efforts to Seat First Black Chief Justice

Posted: Jun 28, 2012

The first missive has been fired in what critics are calling a renegade Louisiana Supreme Court's (LSC) attempts to aid Associate Justice Jeffery P. Victory in jumping ahead of Justice Bernette Johnson in becoming the next Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The court’s Chief Justice, Catherine D. “Kitty” Kimball, issued two orders that have ignited a firestorm of protest over who will assume her post when she retires in 2013. Should Johnson replace Kimball, she would be the state's first-ever Afrcian American Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Acting under the authority of Article V of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, Kimball wrote, "Considering that contrary legal positions have been expressed on the issue of who will succeed to the office of Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court upon the retirement of present Chief Justice Catherine D. Kimball on January 31, 2013…It is hereby ordered that any sitting Justice interested in a legal determination of this matter may file with the Clerk of Court, no later than July 31, 2012,” for the purposes of determining who is Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court as of February 1, 2013, and which Justice is the “judge oldest in point of service.”

In her second order, Kimball recuses Justices Johnson, Victory, and Knoll from any decision about the chief justice job and she appoints three senior judges from the Circuit Courts of Appeal as Justices ad hoc to decide who is the “judge oldest in point of service,” and who will be the chief justice when Kimball retires.

However, Justice Kimball’s orders begs the question: Exactly how is the Louisiana Supreme Court going to prove that Justice Bernette Johnson is not next in line for the office of Chief Justice, when the Louisiana State Constitutional and the federal government affirms her full rights to the same benefits as every other LSC Justice?

Read the full story here.

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