Our view: No need to wait for an appeal
When U.S. District Judge James Brady declared that at-large voting for judges in Terrebonne Parish violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution, he invited the litigants in Terrebonne NAACP v. Jindal to present their potential cures for that condition.
Attorneys for one side — the plaintiffs — gave the judge a roadmap, explaining how they believe a solution should work. The framework was one the judge is familiar with. It is the model that was used for creating a minority sub-district in the 32nd Judicial District. That model carves out five sub-districts, one for each of Terrebonne’s five district court benches.
Attorneys for the Governor of Louisiana and the state’s Attorney General, both defendants in the case, have produced nothing other than a notice that they planned to appeal the case.
Judge Brady will continue on his own timetable, certainly. The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals may or may not entertain involvement at this point. They are under no obligation to do so, especially since Judge Brady has already shot down the state’s request to him for permission to do so.
One solution to the problem as stated in the judge’s published decision is to create one or more sub-districts to accommodate the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. That must be accomplished legislatively.
Members of the local delegation recently met with Attorney General Jeff Landry and other players on the defense side. The meeting was brief, but it did not escape the notice of a plaintiff in the case, Terrebonne Parish NAACP President Jerome Boykin.
During a gathering at his office on West Park Avenue, where two nephews of the late civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., came to express support for the judge’s decision and for the creation of a minority district, Boykin made a point of mentioning that meeting. He said that no person of color was there.
At the same gathering, activists familiar with the judicial district case said they will return to register voters, following Boykin’s lead.
We are all for seeing more registered voters, and even more in favor of seeing all of them get to the polls. But we are wary of how the local delegation has been informed of details concerning the sub-district question. The Attorney General in this case is not just the Attorney General, he is a defendant. His co-defendant is Gov. John Bel Edwards and the two don’t appear to get along so well. But thus far they are both involved with seeking an appeal.
Not such an objective source of information, perhaps.
We wish to encourage the legislators to read Judge Brady’s opinion, and seek independent voices to tell them what it means if they have questions. We also encourage Mr. Boykin to invite the legislators to an information session, possibly with the attorneys who have litigated the case for him.
Our delegation needs to realize that compromise, if it can be had at this point, is preferable to opportunities for more rhetoric, which in these divisive times can do no good for our community.
If they don’t have copies of Judge Brady’s ruling we can easily supply them.
What we believe must exist is dialogue, and access to information.
Knowledge is power, and the power for compromise is in the hands of lawmakers if they wish to use it.
So is the power to take the responsibility that is being gingerly handed to them.
A court order should not be necessary to do what is right, no matter what that decision ends up to be.
Right should be done for its very sake. And sometimes that takes courage.
Whichever path the delegation decides is right — to walk away from the opportunity to make a change consistent with the judge’s findings, or to decide that change indeed should be made, is the one that should be taken.
This question is too important for politics to play a role.
Honesty is needed right now, rather than the opportunity for agendas to flourish and take center stage from either side.