BATON ROUGE — The U.S. District Court
for the Middle District of Louisiana on March 13 will hear a
Terrebonne Parish NAACP lawsuit seeking to create a majority-minority
judicial district system to better represent the blacks and
minorities in the parish.
Multiple attempts at creating
legislation to break up the parish failed before the lawsuit was
filed in 2014, according to a report
by the Daily Comet.
The NAACP will be using the Voting Rights Act
of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting, as an
argument, Victorien Wu, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and
Educational Fund that is representing the local branch, the Louisiana
Record. The parish is currently made up of about 20 percent
blacks, 70 percent white and 10 percent other minorities, he
LDF hired an expert to analyze voting patterns in the
parish. In the last seven elections in which there has been at least
one black candidate, 85 percent of the black voters supported that
candidate but in none of those elections did that candidate win.
are looking for a change in the system that will give them the
opportunity to elect their preferred candidate election after
election,” Wu said.
The parish is currently an at-large system.
This case would split it into five voting districts, with one being
made up of minorities, the Daily Comet reported.
The argument has been made against the case that an elected
official elected from the minority district can’t accurately
represent the whole parish, Wu said. Louisiana, however, has many
majority-minority districts from cases that popped up in the late
1980s and early 1990s, including the state Supreme Court.
is no evidence that judges elected in majority-minority districts are
less fair or less independent or less accountable,” Wu said. “The
state judicial system continues to function well.”
Wu has seen
the opposite effect from the other districts.
expanded the diversity of the judiciary in Louisiana, and people have
greater confidence in their judiciary,” he said.
The case has
experienced another hurdle. After the case was filed, a black former
assistant district attorney, Juan Pickett, ran unopposed for judge in
the parish. Never in history has a black candidate ran unopposed in
the parish, leading Wu to suspect a ploy from the defense to downplay
Wu also said that although the state is facing budget
issues, it is spending a lot of money in defense of this case.
According to Wu, the defense has hired four expert witnesses who
each charge about $250-400 an hour.
If the state loses, per the
Voting Rights Act, it will have to pay the NAACP’s legal fees.
state is looking at spending a substantial amount that they could be
using elsewhere,” Wu said.
Despite the amount of money the
state is paying, Wu feels confident about the case, especially with
other similar cases that have had success in the state.
believe we have a really strong case,” he said.