Group asks appellate court to block new EBR School Board map

A group of parish residents seeking to block a new nine-member redistricting plan that will shrink the size of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board by two seats filed court papers late Monday seeking an immediate review of a lower court ruling upholding the new plan.

Alfreda Bester, attorney for the nine plaintiffs and general counsel for the Louisiana NAACP, said she expects the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal to take up her emergency request before qualifying starts Wednesday and concludes Friday for the Nov. 4 elections.

She said she is asking the appellate court to do what state District Judge Tim Kelley would not do Friday, which is to annul the new maps, approved July 24, and revert to the 11-member plan approved in November 2012.

“To me, the law is so crystal clear here,” Bester said.

Kelley upheld the new maps Friday after a 2½-hour hearing.

Bester argued the new maps are invalid because the School Board approved them after Dec. 31, 2012, a deadline in state law for local governments to reapportion using the previous decennial census data. Kelley disagreed, saying that law does not prohibit reapportioning again and again.

Kelley also ruled that School Board member Craig Freeman continues to be legally domiciled in District 6 and that his vote in favor of the new plan, which broke what would have otherwise been a 5-5 tie, was valid. The longtime LSU communications professor is in the process of moving to teach journalism at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma, a job he started Monday.

Kelley also dismissed arguments that the new maps were not properly advertised in The Advocate in advance of the vote and that the constitutional rights of candidates were violated because the plan was approved the day after the deadline for qualifying by nomination, a move that can save a candidate hundreds of dollars in qualifying fees.