Covering Louisiana

Feb 4, 2014 11:41 AM by AP

NAACP sues for minority judgeship in Terrebonne

HOUMA, La. (AP) - While all five seats on the Terrebonne District Court bench are up for election this year, an effort for a minority judge has been revived.

Terrebonne NAACP President Jerome Boykin told The Courier the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a federal suit Monday against the state to turn term-limited Judge Timothy Ellender's position into a minority judgeship.

As it stands, Terrebonne's district judges are all elected from at-large seats by voters across the entire parish.

The lawsuit asks the courts to instead create five separate districts, including one with a majority of black and other minority voters.

The minority dominated district would elect a judge to the Division C bench. It is now held by longtime judge Timothy Ellender, who will step down at year's end after reaching the state's mandatory retirement age of 70.

"What the NAACP Legal Defense Fund is filing to change is the at-large system of the 32nd Judicial Court to a single-district voting system," Boykin said. "The system we have now makes it so that whoever runs and gets the most votes wins. We strongly think that this process dilutes the African-American vote.

"All we're looking for is the opportunity to elect a candidate of our choice. We are sick and tired of being treated like second-class citizens in Terrebonne Parish."

In more than 191 years, no African-American has ever been elected to a district judgeship in Terrebonne, Boykin said.

So far, Juan Pickett, a longtime Terrebonne assistant district attorney, is the only candidate who has announced publicly that he is running for Ellender's seat.

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