Baton Rouge City Court could cost taxpayers millions

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The make-up of the Baton Rouge City Court may likely change in the coming months. Currently, three white judges sit on the court with two black judges. That's about to change with Judge Susan Ponder retiring, according to some.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 states judicial districts will reflect the make-up of the community. The racial make-up in Baton Rouge after the 2010 census is 55 percent black and 34 percent white. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court, but the judge wanted the Louisiana Legislature to fix it.

Rep. Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge, is the author of the bill that failed on the House floor Tuesday by a vote of 44-40. Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge is disappointed in the bill's failure.

"I can't speak for those folks," said Smith. "All I can say is somebody evidently told them that this wasn't the right thing to do."

So now, rather than a legislative mandate to change the make-up of the court, a lawsuit will determine who's right.

"So now, what's going to happen for the taxpayers of the community?" asked Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge. "Number one, we're going to have to get through another lawsuit."

Four Republican state representatives from Baton Rouge - Steve Carter, Eric Ponti, Hunter Green and Franklin Foil - all voted against the re-districting measure.

"Number one, I did not want to create another sub-district," said Franklin Foil. "I think if we're going to create a district for Baton Rouge city judge, it should be a city-wide position."

Federal District Court Judge Brian Jackson is hearing the case.

"At the end of the day, this is going to cost the city, parish, state millions of dollars in litigation costs," Williams said.

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