The Terrebonne Parish Courthouse where Louisiana’s 32nd Judicial District Court is based. A lawsuit brought by the NAACP has resulted in the court’s at-large electoral scheme being declared racially discriminatory. A lawsuit that led to judicial elections in Louisiana’s Terrebonne Parish being declared racially discriminatory will move to the remedial stage despite efforts by the governor and attorney general — with help from a controversial law firm — to block a fix. Last week, three judges of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry’s attempt to appeal the liability decision against them in Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP et al. v. Jindal et al., the 2014 lawsuit brought by the civil rights group over the electoral scheme for the state’s 32nd Judicial District Court in Terrebonne Parish southwest of New Orleans.
In August, a federal trial court ruled that the at-large system of electing judges there “deprives Black voters of the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” thus violating the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, which bars discrimination in voting because of race, color or language minority status. The NAACP is seeking the creation of five single-member electoral districts for the court, including one that’s majority-minority.
According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Terrebonne Parish is 71 percent white, 19 percent Black, 5.9 percent American Indian and five percent Hispanic. In that overwhelmingly white jurisdiction, a Black candidate with opposition has never been elected as a judge on the parish’s courts — though a white judge who had been suspended from the bench for attending a Halloween party wearing blackface, an orange prison jumpsuit and an Afro wig was re-elected.