In February 2014, the local branch of the NAACP in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, filed a federal civil rights action alleging that the system used to elect judges in the state’s 32nd Judicial District violated the federal Voting Rights and the U.S. Constitution. More than three years and several procedural twists later, the case went to trial this week in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Terrebonne Parish currently elects all five of its state judges using an “at-large” system, meaning that all judges are chosen by a parish-wide vote even though each judge presides over a specific division of the court. Plaintiffs argue that this system disenfranchises minority voters, and are seeking to replace it with five judge-specific voting districts, one of which would be a minority district.
Aside from the substantive importance of the parties’ positions, this case is another interesting example of federal challenges to state judicial election practices.