Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP v. Jindal, CIVIL ACTION NO. 14–0069–JJB–EWD

CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Louisiana
Writing for the CourtJUDGE JAMES J. BRADY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Citation274 F.Supp.3d 395
Parties TERREBONNE PARISH BRANCH NAACP, et al v. Piyush ("Bobby") JINDAL, the Governor of the State of Louisiana, in His Official Capacity, et al
Decision Date17 August 2017
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 14–0069–JJB–EWD

274 F.Supp.3d 395

TERREBONNE PARISH BRANCH NAACP, et al
v.
Piyush ("Bobby") JINDAL, the Governor of the State of Louisiana, in His Official Capacity, et al

CIVIL ACTION NO. 14–0069–JJB–EWD

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana.

Signed August 17, 2017


274 F.Supp.3d 406

Leah C. Aden, Deuel Ross, Natasha M. Korgaonkar, Victorien Wu, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Alexander J. Selarnick, Michael B. De Leeuw, William A. Lesser, Pro Hac Vice, New York, NY, Danielle Morello, Pro Hac Vice, Washington, DC, Ronald Lawrence Wilson, New Orleans, LA, for Terrebonne Parish Branch Naacp, et al.

William P. Bryan, III, Attorney General's Office, Angelique Duhon Freel, Jeffrey Michael Wale, Madeline S. Carbonette, Louisiana Department of Justice, Baton Rouge, LA, for Piyush ("Bobby") Jindal, the Governor of the State of Louisiana, in his Official Capacity, et al.

RULING

JUDGE JAMES J. BRADY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

This matter is before the Court pursuant to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ("Section 2"), 52 U.S.C. § 10301 (previously codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1973 ), and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. A bench trial was held on March 13–20 and April 26–28, 2017. The Court heard from 27 witnesses, and over 350 exhibits were admitted into evidence.

I. BRIEF OVERVIEW / INTRODUCTION

The individual Plaintiffs in this case are all black registered voters and residents of

274 F.Supp.3d 407

Terrebonne Parish.1 Terrebonne Branch NAACP ("Terrebonne NAACP") is also a Plaintiff in this case. The Defendants in this case are the Governor of Louisiana and the Attorney General of Louisiana, both of whom are sued in their official capacities.

The Plaintiffs challenge Louisiana's use of an at-large voting system for the 32nd Judicial District Court ("32nd JDC"), a state court that exercises jurisdiction over Terrebonne Parish ("Terrebonne"). They claim that the use of at-large voting for election to the 32nd JDC effectively affords black minority voters of Terrebonne less opportunity to elect judicial candidates of their choice. Additionally, they claim that a discriminatory purpose has been a motivating factor in the maintenance of at-large voting for the 32nd JDC.

For the reasons explained more fully herein, the Court finds that at-large voting for the 32nd JDC deprives black voters of the equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice in violation of Section 2, and it has been maintained for that purpose, in violation of Section 2 and the United States Constitution. The Court, having considered all of the testimony, evidence, and arguments presented by the parties, hereby enters the following findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a).2

II. JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES

The Defendants, once again, urge this Court to find that it lacks jurisdiction to hear this case. First, they claim that they are entitled to immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Second, they argue that the Plaintiffs lack standing to challenge at-large voting for the 32nd JDC. The Court finds these arguments unpersuasive.

First, while Defendants re-urge their argument that sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment deprives the Court of subject matter jurisdiction, they provide no basis for this Court to depart from its prior ruling in this case.3 Accordingly, the Eleventh Amendment does not bar any of Plaintiffs' claims in this case.

Second, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have standing to bring this case. To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must show that he has suffered an injury-in-fact caused by the defendant's challenged conduct and that a favorable decision will likely redress the plaintiff's injury.4 The Defendants make three arguments to support dismissal on standing grounds: (1) there is no evidence of injury because Plaintiffs were able to elect a black individual (Judge Juan Pickett) to the 32nd JDC and white candidates to other parish-wide offices: (2) the Attorney General and the Governor are neither the proper parties as they cannot properly change the election

274 F.Supp.3d 408

method for the 32nd JDC nor has any evidence been presented that they discriminated against Plaintiffs: and (3) other officials, like the Secretary of State, play a role in the maintenance of the 32nd JDC, which means that causation and redressability are lacking as to the two Defendants.

The Plaintiffs have stated a cognizable injury. The dilution of an individual's right to vote is a cognizable injury for Article III standing purposes.5 Neither Judge Pickett's election nor those of the white candidates definitively show the absence of vote dilution under at-large voting for the 32nd JDC.6

The Attorney General and Governor are proper defendants in this case. Contrary to Defendants' assertions, they are not "impotent," and they do play a role in the 32nd JDC elections. Defendants' argument is at odds with many voting rights cases arising in Louisiana (including some that have reached the United States Supreme Court) in which the Attorney General and the Governor were named as defendants.7 Furthermore, Louisiana law requires the Attorney General and the Governor to play several important roles with respect to the electoral process for the Judicial District Courts which renders them proper defendants in this case.8 The Defendants also assert that a claim of discriminatory purpose against them is inappropriate as no evidence has been introduced that the Governor or the Attorney General discriminated against the Plaintiffs. This does not undermine Plaintiffs' intent claim because the inquiry into intent focuses on the motivations of the legislative body at issue, not of any single official or named defendant.9

Finally, the fact that the Secretary of State plays a role in maintaining and overseeing the electoral method of the 32nd JDC does not mean that causation and redressability are absent with respect to Defendants.10 Accordingly, the Court shall proceed to analyze the merits of this case.

III. OVERVIEW OF THE LAW GOVERNING THE COURT'S INQUIRY

The Plaintiffs effectively have two claims in this case. First, they bring a claim under Section 2, which requires them to show that at-large voting for the 32nd JDC has a discriminatory or dilutive effect. Second, they bring a claim under Section 2, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fifteenth Amendment, asserting that at-large voting for the 32nd JDC has been maintained for a discriminatory purpose.

A. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (Discriminatory Effect)

The Voting Rights Act ("VRA") was enacted to "give those who had been

274 F.Supp.3d 409

disenfranchised on account of their race the opportunity to participate in the political process."11 "Section 2 proscribes practices that, while permitting a mechanical exercise of the right to vote, operate to cancel out or minimize [i.e. dilute] the voting strength of racial groups such that members of the racial minority have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice."12 Section 2 is not meant to guarantee electoral success for minority-preferred candidates, but rather, the goal of Section 2 is to prohibit certain electoral practices or structures that interact with "social and historical conditions to cause an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their preferred representatives."13 In addition to covering elections for many types of executive and legislative positions, Section 2 also applies to judicial elections.14

When a plaintiff challenges an at-large voting system, such as the system that exists in this case, "[t]he theoretical basis for this type of impairment is that where minority and majority voters consistently prefer different candidates, the majority, by virtue of its numerical superiority, will regularly defeat the choices of minority voters."15 "[A]t-large election schemes...are not per se violative of minority voters' rights."16 A plaintiff can show that an at-large election scheme violates Section 2 by showing that it has a "discriminatory effect alone."17

A successful Section 2 vote dilution claim has two components. First, a plaintiff must satisfy the three Gingles preconditions by showing: (1) that the minority group is "sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district" (" Gingles one"): (2) that the minority group is "politically cohesive" (" Gingles two"): and (3) that bloc voting by other members of the electorate usually defeats black-preferred candidates (" Gingles three").18 Satisfaction of these three preconditions is necessary but not sufficient to establish liability.19

Second, "[i]f these three preconditions are met, the district court must then examine a variety of other factors to determine whether, under the totality of the circumstances, the challenged practice...

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7 practice notes
  • La. State Conference of the Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People v. Louisiana, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-479-JWD-SDJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Middle District of Louisiana
    • June 26, 2020
    ...that unlawfully diluted black votes under Section 2." (Id. ¶ 44 (citing Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal (Terrebonne III ), 274 F. Supp. 3d 395 (M.D. La. 2017), appeal dismissed sub nom. Fusilier v. Edwards , No. 17-30756, 2017 WL 8236034 (5th Cir. Nov. 14, 2017) ).)4. Other Allegatio......
  • Ala. State Conference of N.A. for Advancement of Colored People v. Merrill, CASE NO. 2:16-CV-731-WKW [WO]
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • February 5, 2020
    ...139 F.3d at 1425 (observing that the proposed judicial districts "are contiguous"); see also Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal, 274 F. Supp. 3d 395, 424 (M.D. La. 2017) ("Contiguity as a traditional redistricting principle does not mean that the concentrations of black voters in the pr......
  • Luna v. Cnty. of Kern, No. 1:16–cv–00568–DAD–JLT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 23, 2018
    ...see also Citizens for a Better Gretna v. City of Gretna , 834 F.2d 496, 502 (5th Cir. 1987) ; Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal , 274 F.Supp.3d 395, 432 (M.D. La. 2017) ("Although exogenous elections tend to be less probative of [racially polarized voting] than endogenous elections, th......
  • Thomas v. Bryant, No. 19-60133
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 3, 2019
    ...district court, EI analysis is widely recognized and accepted in voting cases. See, e.g. , Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal , 274 F. Supp. 3d 395, 433–34 (M.D. La. 2017) ; Jamison v. Tupelo, Miss. , 471 F. Supp. 2d 706, 710 (N.D. Miss. 2007) ; Houston v. Lafayette Cty. , 20 F. Supp. 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • La. State Conference of the Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People v. Louisiana, CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-479-JWD-SDJ
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Middle District of Louisiana
    • June 26, 2020
    ...that unlawfully diluted black votes under Section 2." (Id. ¶ 44 (citing Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal (Terrebonne III ), 274 F. Supp. 3d 395 (M.D. La. 2017), appeal dismissed sub nom. Fusilier v. Edwards , No. 17-30756, 2017 WL 8236034 (5th Cir. Nov. 14, 2017) ).)4. Other Allegatio......
  • Ala. State Conference of N.A. for Advancement of Colored People v. Merrill, CASE NO. 2:16-CV-731-WKW [WO]
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • February 5, 2020
    ...139 F.3d at 1425 (observing that the proposed judicial districts "are contiguous"); see also Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal, 274 F. Supp. 3d 395, 424 (M.D. La. 2017) ("Contiguity as a traditional redistricting principle does not mean that the concentrations of black voters in the pr......
  • Luna v. Cnty. of Kern, No. 1:16–cv–00568–DAD–JLT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • February 23, 2018
    ...see also Citizens for a Better Gretna v. City of Gretna , 834 F.2d 496, 502 (5th Cir. 1987) ; Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal , 274 F.Supp.3d 395, 432 (M.D. La. 2017) ("Although exogenous elections tend to be less probative of [racially polarized voting] than endogenous elections, th......
  • Thomas v. Bryant, No. 19-60133
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • September 3, 2019
    ...district court, EI analysis is widely recognized and accepted in voting cases. See, e.g. , Terrebonne Par. Branch NAACP v. Jindal , 274 F. Supp. 3d 395, 433–34 (M.D. La. 2017) ; Jamison v. Tupelo, Miss. , 471 F. Supp. 2d 706, 710 (N.D. Miss. 2007) ; Houston v. Lafayette Cty. , 20 F. Supp. 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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