Louisiana Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Parties file motions after ruling deems 32nd Judicial District election method as unconstitutional

By Dee Thompson | Nov 13, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — Despite a ruling in a lawsuit involving the NAACP and the governor that the method of electing judges in the 32nd Judicial District is discriminatory, both sides are arguing how voting in the 32nd Judicial District should be handled.

The case of Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP v. Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal was filed in February 2014 as a challenge to using at-large voting in the 32nd Judicial District. The plaintiffs claimed that at-large voting dilutes the voting strength of black voters and violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution.

In addition to Jindal, named defendants were James D. “Buddy” Caldwell, attorney general of Louisiana, and Tom Schedler, Louisiana secretary of state. 

A bench trial was conducted before the District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana in March. In August, the District Court ruled that “at-large voting for the 32nd JDC deprives black voters of the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in violation of Section 2, and it has been maintained for that purpose, in violation of Section 2 and the United States Constitution,” court records state. The ruling did not order a remedy.

Before a final order was issued, the defendants filed an appeal in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and moved to stay proceedings. They also moved for interlocutory appeal, which takes place before all claims are resolved.

The plaintiffs filed a motion to dismiss Oct. 5, seeking "various forms of relief, including, but not limited to an injunction against the use of at-large voting for the 32nd JDC and a deadline for Louisiana to adopt an electoral method that remedies the vote dilution intentionally resulting from at-large voting for the 32nd JDC or, alternatively, for the district court to order such a remedy.”

Additionally, the plaintiffs argue, “Here, the parties do not yet know whether the ultimate remedy in this case will require five single-member districts or some other method of electing judges to the 32nd JDC. It is also unclear when and how the court will order the as yet-undetermined remedy to be implemented. This case would be better suited for appellate review once the specific contours of the remedy itself have crystallized and final judgment has been ordered.”

The defendants on Oct. 13 filed a response to the motion to dismiss. In that response, they write that after a Status Conference was held, the minutes do not include "the fact that Plaintiffs, despite seemingly contradictory statements in their Motion to Dismiss, advised the court that they would likely seek special elections in Terrebonne Parish in 2018.” 

The defendants argued that the court’s ruling acted as an injunction to stay any special elections prior to the 2020 elections, and therefore it can be appealed.  

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