NEW ORLEANS — An NAACP lawsuit alleges that Terrebonne Parish's
system of selecting judges violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act, and
its aim of creating a minority-based judicial district is to be heard
at Louisiana’s federal district court on March 13.
U.S. District Judge James Brady is expected to preside over the
In 2014, a lawsuit was brought by the Terrebonne Parish Branch of
the NAACP, the Rev. Vincent Fuselier of St. Mathew Baptist
Church in Houma and three other residents against former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Attorney General James D.
“Buddy” Caldwell and Secretary of State Tom Schedler, the Houma
The suit, which aims to change the current voting system, seeks to
create a district-based voting method that is used for parish-council
and school-board elections to create a minority district.
Today reported, the proposed system would include five
single-member districts for judges, including one with a voter
majority made up of blacks and other minorities.
NAACP President Jerome Boykin said that “African-Americans deserve
the right to elect the candidate of their choice” and that “[w]e
have not been able to elect the candidate of our choice in an
Terrebonne Parish uses the current at-large system of electing its
five state district-court judges. This means that each judge, who
presides over a specific division of court, is elected by all voters
within the parish, according to a 2016 report from the Houma
Times. The suit alleges that this practice violates Section 2 of
the Voting Rights Act, while the at-large system prevents minority
voters from being heard in judicial elections.
While six legislative proposals to create a majority-black
district in Terrebonne have failed in the past, Houma Today reported,
the 2014 lawsuit is proposing a district that includes parts of east
and west Houma, Schriever and Gray.
Houma Today added that while the local NAACP president has
received support from the community, Boykin is reported as saying
that “not one white elected official has come on board to support
what we are doing.”
Parish President Gordon Dove, a longtime opponent of the minority
judgeship, filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit in Feb. 2016;
however, he was blocked by federal court. He was attempting to get “a
seat at the table” on behalf of the parish, he said,
but by the time he took office and intervened it was too late to
to Dove, the proposed new system is “bad” because it has the
potential to “devastate the judicial system as we know it.”
The next step for the parish, Dove told
the Houma Times, is to file an amicus curiae brief, which is a filing
expressing an opinion by a being that is neither plaintiff nor
defendant but one who has knowledge or an interest in the outcome.
Judges may consider these opinions, but they are not obligated to
consider them in their decisions.
In an article from The Courier and Daily Comet, Dove said that a
second minority judge in addition to Judge Juan Pickett would require
extra money and work for the parish, Houma Today stated.