Racial makeup of BR city judges topic at legislature

Baton Rouge City Court Judges
Baton Rouge City Court Judges

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - There is a bill that is quietly making its way through the legislative process that could have a major effect on Baton Rouge city court. A federal lawsuit has been pending for years about the racial make-up of the panel.

According to the United States Census Bureau the City of Baton Rouge is 55 percent African American and 39 percent white. So when you take a look at the makeup of the Baton Rouge City Court it's as plain as black and white, with the majority being white judges.

A federal lawsuit challenging the way judges are elected has already been filed and assigned to District court Judge Brian Jackson. Federal law requires the racial makeup of the judges on city and district courts to reflect the make-up of the population. Meanwhile, Representative Alfred Williams says the legislature is also addressing the issue.

"I think it should reflect the city it should reflect the city make up. I think that three city court African American judges in city court and two white judges - that is what we should have considering the make-up that is what we should have in the city," said Williams.

Williams introduced legislation that would carve out a third black district in the city of Baton Rouge. But that bill was defeated. Representative Eric Ponti's bill passed that would make all the judges at large, meaning no particular geographical area and any citizen could vote for any judge, but Williams is cautious.

"Representative Ponti's bill passed whereby we would end up having a city wide election. I have problems with that and the reason I have problems with that is now it may end up creating a situation, a reverse discrimination, where we could end up having all African American judges and whether that would be a fair to the city of Baton Rouge where there is a white population. I think they need representation on the city court also," says Williams.

Williams says he has no issue with the way the court is ruling these days but he says fair is fair.

"As far as fair representation what we have as judges I think that's fair but when you think of the make-up of the community we need to look at and make sure the court reflects the make-up of the community," says Williams.

So at the end of the day either the legislature or District Court Judge Brian Jackson will fix the issue at city court.

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