A battle involving states’ rights versus federal law — with race as a backdrop — is taking place in Louisiana around the possible appointment of a black chief justice, reports Reuters.
Bernette Johnson, who has served on the Louisiana Supreme Court for 18 years, was on her way to becoming the state’s next chief justice after the current justice, who is white, retires next year, but the governor’s lawyers are challenging a federal judge’s decision allowing her to take office.
The state constitution stipulates that the longest-serving associate justice takes the top post. Johnson began serving on the state Supreme Court in 1994 while white justice Jeffrey Victory did not join the court until 1995.
But Johnson was initially appointed to the Supreme Court, not elected, as part of a state settlement with the federal government over racial discrimination that expanded the court to seven justices from six.
The other members of the current court, who are all white, contend that Johnson does not have the seniority to be the next chief justice. Johnson’s colleagues on the court say that her first six years as an appointed justice should not count toward her seniority. …
But Johnson took her case to federal court, asking that the 20-year-old voting rights case be reopened and that her full tenure on the Supreme Court be reaffirmed.
In a statement released by one of his lawyers, Jindal said the matter should be settled by the Louisiana Supreme Court and the federal government should not be involved.
Read more at the Huffington Post.