The 30th Anniversary Commemoration of the landmark cases that led to greater diversity in the Louisiana judiciary brought together plaintiff lawyers, former top officials involved in the settlement, and those who benefitted from the litigation to the Southern University Law Center, February 26.
SULC and the event co-sponsors: the Carter G. Woodson Historical Society FPC; the Network 2016 Coalition; and the Council of Former Student Government Association President acknowledged the 30th Anniversary of the Clark v. Roemer and Chison v. Edwards legal cases as a great history lesson for current law students to witness, as well as others who joined in the Friday commemoration. The co-sponsors expressed their appreciation to Acadian Companies, WTAA Engineers, Gordon McKernan Injury Attorneys, Bruno and Bruno, Brian Shinault, Landry and Vessel, Simien and Simien, Murray and Murray, and Attorney Domoine Rutledge.
Special recognition was given to Judge Janice Clark, lead plaintiff in Clark v. Roemer; former Attorney General Richard Ieyoub and Governor Edwin W. Edwards, the state officials involved in the settlement; and Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson of the Louisiana State Supreme Court. In addition to thanking event sponsors and participants, the honorees discussed their roles and shared their memories of how and why the turn of events 30 years ago have improved the legal system in the state.
According to Ernest Johnson,’76, the lead attorney in the Clark v. Roemer case, it was no accident that such a lawsuit would be part of strategy developed by civil rights lawyers, many of whom were graduates of the Southern University Law Center. “We were taught ‘seriousness of purpose’ and to look at the full picture and see how you can right the wrongs.”
“Today we take a look at from wench we’ve come to see where we are going. Here we get the impetus to go on into the future to effect greater change.”
What happened in the settlement of these legal cases 30 years ago was so significant in increasing the number of African-American judges in the state, said SULC Interim Chancellor John K. Pierre, that Equal Justice Under the Law, the preeminent pro bono legal organization focusing on the systemic issues that create inequalities in the legal system, has asked to come to the Law Center in September to discuss these cases.
“We are proud of our graduates who continue to use their legal skills to increase access and opportunity, as this Law Center does in its goal to produce lawyer-leaders. We are particularly pleased to have SULC alumnus Allen Simien, who initiated the effort and helped to make this program possible.”
Pictured attending the 30th Anniversary Commemoration of Clark v. Roemer and Chisom v. Edwards held at the Southern University Law Center are from left, Ernest Johnson, ’76, lead attorney in the Clark v. Roemer case; Interim Chancellor John K. Pierre; Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry; Arthur Thomas, ’76, attorney; former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards; President-Chancellor Ray L. Belton, Southern University and A&M College; Judge Yvette Alexander, Baton Rouge City Court; Judge Janice Clark, ’76, of the 19th Judicial District Court, lead plaintiff; Judge Freddie Pitcher, Jr., (retd.), ’73; Judge John M. Guidry, ’87, First Circuit Court of Appeal; Judge Pamela Taylor-Johnson, ’79, East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court; and former Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub. Chief Justice Johnson was not able to attend the event.