Suing for Succession: Bernette Joshua Johnson, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and Jim Crow’s Legacy

Authors

  • Ava Buras

Abstract

State supreme courts are the primary interpreters of state law, and the chief justice has a great influence over what cases are heard. Many legal researchers argue that citizens should elect candidates to their state supreme court not only for their judicial acumen but also to maintain a proportional representation of minority constituents on the bench. However, for states whose histories and laws are rooted in white supremacist ideas, certain voting processes make proportional representation on the bench less attainable. In the case of Bernette Joshua Johnson and the Louisiana Supreme Court, Johnson maneuvered her way up the judicial ladder but faced adversity along her journey. When a vacancy opened for the seat of chief justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court, Johnson had to choose whether to acquiesce to her colleagues and allow a white male co-justice to ascend in her place or to uphold the importance of a representative bench and fight for her succession as Louisiana Supreme Court chief justice.

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Published

2023-01-02