The 20-year-old system of electing Baton Rouge’s five City Court judges from three majority-white districts and two predominantly black districts is outdated and discriminates against black people by diluting their voting strength, a federal lawsuit alleges.
The suit by Kenneth Hall, a black Baton Rouge resident and registered Democrat, claims the city’s population was 60 percent white and 40 percent black when Baton Rouge’s 1993 judicial election plan went into effect. Black voters now comprise 54 percent of the city’s population, and white voters account for 38 percent, the suit says, but the judicial election plan has not been revised.
The suit contends the system “is tantamount to an apartheid judicial election system in favor of White judicial candidates running for City Court.” That system violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, the suit maintains.
One of Hall’s attorneys, Joel G. Porter, is running against incumbent City Court Judge Alex “Brick” Wall in the Nov. 6 election for the Division C seat on the court. Porter is black; Wall is white. Both are Democrats. Division C is a majority-white district that basically comprises the southern and eastern parts of the city.
Wall, who is not named as a defendant in the suit, declined Wednesday to comment on the suit.
City Court Judge Suzan Ponder, a Republican, also is being challenged in the upcoming election for the Division E seat on the court by lawyers Tiffany Foxworth and Cliff Ivey.
Ponder and Ivey, also a Republican, are white. Foxworth, a Democrat, is black.
Division E also is a predominantly-white district that basically comprises the southern and eastern part of Baton Rouge.
City Court’s other judges are Laura Davis, a white Republican, and Kelli Terrell Temple and Yvette Alexander, who are black Democrats.
Hall’s suit, filed late last week in federal court in Baton Rouge, names Gov. Bobby Jindal, state Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and Secretary of State Tom Schedler as defendants.
The suit, which has been assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson, asks that the defendants be prohibited “from further calling, holding, supervising, or certifying any elections, particularly the upcoming Nov. 6, 2012 (elections) under the current Judicial Election Plan.”
The suit also asks that an “immediate and reasonable” deadline be set for Louisiana authorities to enact and adopt a new legislative redistricting/reapportionment judicial election plan for all judicial offices of Baton Rouge City Court to include the upcoming elections and any future elections.
A hearing date in federal court has not been set.
Amanda Larkins, a spokeswoman for Caldwell, said the Attorney General’s Office could not comment on the pending suit.
Hall also is represented by lawyers Ron Johnson and Steve Irving.