On Tuesday, the state Supreme Court ruled that Justice Bernette Johnson will be the court’s next chief justice, settling a racially-charged debate over the future of the high court. And that’s the topic of this week’s Commentary by Eyewitness News Political Analyst and Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos.
Clancy DuBos / Eyewitness News Political Analyst
The Louisiana Supreme Court’s decision today to name Justice Bernette Johnson as the next chief justice finally resolves a painful, divisive chapter in the high court’s history. The court made the right decision, and it’s significant that it was unanimous.
The court’s 21-page opinion zeroes in on the crux of the controversy in the very first sentence. It notes that the Louisiana constitution requires that the judge who is, quote, “oldest in point of service on the supreme court shall be chief justice.”
That really doesn’t leave room for interpretation. It doesn’t say, as the justices correctly noted, that the judge who was elected first becomes chief justice. It says that the judge who has served the longest is the chief justice.
Justice Johnson has served longer than any other justice on the court, after current Chief Justice Kitty Kimball. Chief Justice Kimball will retire at the end of January. At that time, Justice Johnson will make history by becoming Louisiana’s first African-American chief justice.
Let’s hope that history also sees today’s decision as the beginning of a time of healing on the court, and in the legal community.
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