Kyle Barnett Feb. 2, 2013, 6:51am

NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine “Kitty” Kimball officially retired on Thursday.

After 20 years on the on the state’s high court Kimball sent a statement to the state judiciary on her final day in the position.

"Today marks my last day as Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with such dedicated and hard-working Judges these past 30 years, and especially the last four years as Chief Justice," the statement read.

Kimball, whose home is in Alexandria, represented the Fifth Supreme Court District from 1992-2008 until she was named the first female Chief Justice in the history of the Louisiana Supreme Court in 2009.

Kimball’s announcement in April 2012 that she would retire in January 2013 to spend more time with family sparked a months-long battle on who her successor would be.

The debate centered on whether the years Justice Bernette Johnson, of New Orleans,  served on the court in a position created by a federal consent decree mandating the court have at least one minority should be calculated into her seniority on the court.

Justice Jeffery Victory of Shreveport, who was elected to the court after Johnson was appointed in the specially created position, claimed he was the rightful successor to Kimball.

Despite a ruling by a federal court judge that Johnson was the rightful successor Gov. Bobby Jindal filed an appeal asking that the Louisiana Supreme Court itself choose the successor.

Johnson was eventually chosen to succeed Kimball and is the first black Chief Justice in the court’s history.

Jeff D. Hughes III, of Walker, takes over Kimball’s vacated Fifth District seat after winning a runoff election held in December.

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