Legal Sisters: Justice Bernette Johnson

Justice Bernette Johnson
Here I was all excited to write a post about the first black soon-to-be chief justice of Louisiana's Supreme Court, but alas no. 

Now mind you, Justice Bernette Johnson had to sue in order to be affirmed for a position that she's due--a suit that she just recently won--and now, in probably what shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, the ruling is being appealed.  Any guesses on who's doing the appealing? 

I'll give you three, and the first two don't count.

From Huffington Post:
NEW ORLEANS, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Lawyers for Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal have challenged a U.S. federal judge's ruling that would allow a black state supreme court justice to become the court's next chief justice.

Jindal, who is Indian-American, on Friday asked an appeals court to review a lower-court decision to allow black justice Bernette Johnson's to succeed a white chief justice retiring next year.

The dispute over whether Johnson should be the first black justice to head the Louisiana court has highlighted long-standing racial tensions in the state.
The state constitution stipulates that the longest-serving associate justice takes the top post. Johnson began serving on the state Supreme Court in 1994 while white justice Jeffrey Victory did not join the court until 1995.

But Johnson was initially appointed to the Supreme Court, not elected, as part of a state settlement with the federal government over racial discrimination that expanded the court to seven justices from six.

The other members of the current court, who are all white, contend that Johnson does not have the seniority to be the next chief justice. Johnson's colleagues on the court say that her first six years as an appointed justice should not count toward her seniority.

Current chief justice Catherine Kimball attempted to resolve the dispute by asking members of the court to file briefs arguing the issue and having outside judges rule on succession.

But Johnson took her case to federal court, asking that the 20-year-old voting rights case be reopened and that her full tenure on the Supreme Court be reaffirmed.

In a statement released by one of his lawyers, Jindal said the matter should be settled by the Louisiana Supreme Court and the federal government should not be involved.

"The issue on appeal is not who should serve as the next Chief Justice, but whether the Louisiana Supreme Court should be prohibited by a federal court from interpreting the state's constitution," he said in the statement.

A lawyer for Johnson called Jindal's position a throwback to the days when Southern states used the principle of "states rights" as a smokescreen for racism.

"That's what the proponents of slavery said during the Civil War. It's an age-old excuse," said attorney James Williams.
What is it about powerful black women that frightens these men so?  What do they think she's going to do once she takes the big chair?  Suppress voter's rights?  Oh right...that's their thing.  It really all comes down to that age-old BS (made even more prominent by President Obama's election):  They've done racist shit, but don't want to own up to it nor pay lawful penance for it.
Justice Johnson did everything she was supposed to do--graduating from college and law school, then working her way up through the ranks.  I know it's difficult for some people to believe, but she ended up on the Supreme Court because she's qualified to be there. 
Being appointed doesn't mean that someone is unqualified.  The two things aren't mutually exclusive.  Despite her appointment, those in power wouldn't have elevated Justice Johnson to her current position if she wasn't up to the task of serving.  It just doesn't work that way for people of color because unfortunately, we still have to pay that all-too-familiar Black Tax.  And don't even get me started on the ugliness U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had to face when she was nominated. 
When these folks say "pull yourself up by your bootstraps", it's a lie of epic proportions. A craptastic platitude that sounds pretty, but is really code for "Hey you Black/Latino/Asian/Native-American people, don't become a drag on society, but even if you do end up doing well for yourself, you still have to stay in your place." Case in point, the President and the First Lady. They are the poster couple for "did everything right", and it's still not enough for the large swath of knucke-draggers in this country. And as long as they hold the power, it never will be.
It's imperative that we all continue to fight for what we have earned and for what we deserve. Because they aren't going to stop trying to take away the gains that we've made, and they definitely aren't going to stop fighting against any future gains that we try to make. 
After all the racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia that has seemed to become so accepted in the mainstream nowadays, we can't let them win.  We just can't.


  1. Girl, it is always great to have you come out swingin'. Been gone too long, woman.

    What is it about powerful black women that frightens these men so? What do they think she's going to do once she takes the big chair?

    This is a damn good question. I have feeling that 1) people of color in any position of power frightens men like these, and 2)these men are probably old enough to remember the "good ole days" when black people swung from trees and Russia was America's #1 enemy.

    1. Girl, work is killing me (at a job I don't particulary like, which makes it even worse). I'm so tired when I get home, I can't even write. I'm going to start trying though. I missed it.

      Your number two sounds and awful lot like the GOP presidential nominee. He seems to have an unhealthy fixation on Russia. Or as he likes to call it...The Soviet Union. (I think he's been watching to many Rocky movies.)

    2. Oh, honey. Sorry to hear offline life is gettin' you down. Missed you like crazy!!!

      Our dearest GOP presidential nominee and his wife are saturated with pure cluelessness. They are so wealthy and privileged and pampered that they exist in an alternate reality where the 50s and 60s simply never ended.

  2. I think the saddest thing of all is that it's 2012, and there are still so many damn "firsts." They make me happy and proud when they happen, but you'd think we'd be past all that by now.

    1. And what some people don't grasp is that if in 2012 we're still having "firsts", that's a huge friggin' problem.

  3. Looks as if someone have forgotten where they came from.Who does BobbyJindal think he is? I don't know what is wrong with some of these Republican GOP of color but they aren't White and eventually they will be reminded who they are in some or fashion.People like him are sad.He really thinks that hes better than Black people now that hes been Louisiana's governor twice over.

    Bobby should be reminded that hes not White and from what Ive read about him, some of the citizens questioned him being their governor. Some of these Republicans like him really needs to come down to earth.He will never be respected as an equal,but someone they can use to keep their hands clean.If Justice Johnson doesn't get her rightful position to their supreme court,that's ok. You reap what you sow.The way that Bobby is treating this woman,someone is waiting to remind him who he is and will show him the door.I bet that if it was the other way around,they wouldn't want him on the court.Nothing is more loathe worthy than another minority doing the racist dirty work to oppress another minority.That's a crying shame.

    1. I will never understand folks like Jindal, same as how I will never understand being gay as well as a Republican. Not conservative - Republican. You're telling me Massa's head pats are that great, and your need to be The Special One is that overpowering? Wow. That wake-up moment is going to smart like hell.

    2. Looks as if someone have forgotten where they came from.Who does BobbyJindal think he is? I don't know what is wrong with some of these Republican GOP of color but they aren't White and eventually they will be reminded who they are in some or fashion.

      Thanks for bringing this up so that I didn't have to...again.

  4. "Johnson's colleagues on the court say that her first six years as an appointed justice should not count toward her seniority."

    Oh ok so for those six years what was she doing? Sitting around polishing her nails?

    From my own personal standpoint being APPOINTED says much more to me than being elected. You were CHOSEN out of a bunch of people to step up and represent. Usually people chosen like that are the BEST qualified person to fill the position.

    Voting in politics in this country is just one big popularity contest. Go out on the street and ask people about the issues and you'll come up drawing some pretty crazy blanks or hear some parroted quotes from the latest newscast. But informed discourse? I think not.

    This is indeed a crying shame.


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