Bernette Joshua Johnson, an associate justice on the Louisiana Supreme Court for nearly two decades, is poised to assume the post of chief justice early next year when the current judge Catherine D. Kimball, retires in January.
But Johnson, who was first elected to the state's highest court in 1994, is the second longest serving jurist on the bench and is next in line for the post, faces opposition.
Kimball has not only called for a hearing to determine her successor, she has also issued an order recusing Johnson from sitting on the panel that will determine how the issue will be resolved.
Ron Wilson is one of the attorneys who successfully sued Louisiana in 1986 for Voting Rights Act violations surrounding the state's manner of selecting Supreme Court justices. "The constitution says who the chief justice will be, not the state Supreme Court," Wilson was quoted as saying a National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) report.
Marc H. Morial, National Urban League president and an original plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed on Johnson's behalf, has likewise responded saying any efforts to derail Johnson's a appointment is an affront to the Voting Rights Act.
Another plaintiff, Ron Chisom, stated his support.
"Justice Bernette Johnson isn't a token judge; she's a real judge," Chisom said in the NCBCP report. "I'm honored to play any role in fighting for her."
Meanwhile, Johnson just one of just a few African-American jurists to serve on Louisiana's high court. The others include Justice Jesse Stone who was appointed to briefly serve in 1979 and Justice Revius Ortique, who was elected to a seat on the court in 1992.