Race tinges debate over next La. chief justice

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Associated Press

Posted on June 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A debate over who should succeed Catherine "Kitty" Kimball as chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court has set the stage for a power struggle that could wind up in federal court.

The Louisiana Constitution says the position is filled by the court's longest-serving justice, but two of Kimball's colleagues have staked claims to that distinction.

Justice Bernette Johnson of New Orleans has hired a lawyer to help her make the case she deserves to fill the post and become the court's first black chief justice. Others argue Justice Jeffrey Victory of Shreveport is next in line for the job even though he was sworn in after Johnson started serving on the court.

The outcome hinges on whether to count Johnson's first few years of service on the court.

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