Bill to elect city court judges delayed

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The issue at the Capitol on Wednesday is the make-up of the Baton Rouge City Court which is currently three White judges and two Black judges. But federal law requires the numerical make up of judges, all judges, to approximately reflect the demographics of the jurisdiction. Population-wise, the city of Baton Rouge city is comprised 39 percent White residents and 55 percent African American residents. Registered voters represented include 42 percent White and 52 percent African American.  Baton Rouge Republican Representative Erich Ponti proposed an open ballot where the top five vote getters citywide would be judges. But the bill has been delayed.

Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, thinks the bill needs fine tuning. "I do think five at large seats is a bit much and a reasonable compromise should be made on this legislation. So I'm glad the bill was deferred and that there's going to be a little bit more conversation surrounding the bill to come up with a happy medium and I think think that will be achieved," says Broome.

The compromise is to carve out two white districts, two African American districts and one city-wide at large candidate. Otherwise known as the two-two and one plan.

"We need to do something. The federal court has mandated that we do something and 2-2&1 might be a fair compromise so were going to look at it.  I'm going to look at it next week and we'll visit the issue next week," says the bill's Author Erich Ponti.

"I want to make sure that the city of Baton Rouge is represented fairly by the population that exists and the 2, 2, &1 would represent it fairly," adds Alfred Williams, D-Baton Rouge.

But the clock is ticking. Federal District Court Judge Brian Jackson has been handling a lawsuit that challenges the make-up of the court to comply with federal law. He's said publicly if the legislature won't take care of the issue he will. Williams believes this compromise will satisfy Jackson.

"I think that it would be a good compromise and I think it's something he should consider," Williams said after the hearing.

When the bill gets out of the Senate it still will have to be concurred by the House then it goes to the Governor.

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