The Louisiana Supreme Court, with three appellate judges sitting in, will decide in August who will be its next chief justice. The controversy might not end there, but in federal court instead. If so, the high court and the state could revisit the tumultuous early '90s, when decisions over racial gerrymandering altered the complexion of Louisiana politics. The succession dispute, simmering since Chief Justice Kitty Kimball announced in April that she will retire in February, went public last week when she issued an unusual order that set a procedure for determining whether justices Bernette Johnson of New Orleans or Jeff Victory of Shreveport will next lead the Supreme Court as well as the judicial system of the state. Kimball's order named three senior appellate judges to substitute for Johnson, Victory and Justice Jeannette Knoll, whose place in the line of succession also will be determined. Should the panel in August pick Victory, who is white, over Johnson, who is African-American, the decision is certain to be challenged in federal court as a violation of the consent decree. Court watchers say Johnson already was preparing her legal position before Kimball's order by reaching out to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and other national groups. She also likely forced the question by sending a memo last week to Supreme Court staffers informing them she would be the next chief justice and offering to assist them in the transition. The next day Kimball released her order setting up the succession procedure.
—In the lull between the legislative session and fall elections, what better time to consider a poll for the 2015 governor's race, from pollster Verne Kennedy and businessman and past candidate John Georges? Georges is the only known member of the "business group" paying for Kennedy's surveys. It's not their first poll of the cycle, having surveyed the field in December 2011, with the same results: Sen. David Vitter and Georges in a runoff. In the June 11-15 poll sampling views of 600 likely voters, those two finished tied at 20% in a field of four Republicans and lone Democrat Georges, with Vitter then leading the runoff, 37-33%. Trailing Republicans were: Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, 14%; Treasurer John Kennedy, 9%; and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, 3%. This is the first mention of the locally popular Normand as a potential candidate. In a memo, Georges does make a cogent point: "We assume the Democrats will rally around one candidate." But it well might not be him, as state Rep. John Bel Edwards of Amite, who has emerged as the leader of Democrats in the Legislature, is considered a likely candidate. He won't have Georges' money, but he could raise enough as the champion of teachers, state employees, trial lawyers and sympathetic Democrats seeking an inspiring candidate.
They said it: "When you don't win, you find ways to win." — Republican Rep. Joe Harrison, on the Jindal administration moving the Office of Elderly Affairs' adult protection services to the state Department of Health and Hospitals, after a bill to approve the move died in the House, in The Advocate
(John Maginnis publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com.)