Judge Bernette Johnson will be the first black Chief Justice of the Louisiana State Court. Johnson was first voted into the Louisiana State Appeals Court in 1994.

Her appointment was during a discrimination lawsuit settlement regarding the election system of judges. The system then apparently violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Civil rights activists, lawyers, the NAACP Defense Fund and even editorials of the New York Times took part in a major defense effort for Judge Johnson. She took her place on the state appeals bench, and served in the eighth Supreme Court district in New Orleans until the court reverted back to seven districts in 2000. This was the same time she was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Now, as she has been appointed Chief Justice, another judge, Justice Jeffrey Victory, who happens to be white, argued that he should get the job of Chief Justice, not Bernette Johnson, likely because of the way she was appointed. Victory became a high court justice one year after Johnson. He, along with two other judges, were removed from their places on the bench while the appointment of Judge Johnson took place. Three state appeals judges sat in their places instead.

Justice Bernette Johnson will take over after Chief Justice Catherine “Kitty” Kimball in the early part of next year.

 

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