Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson becomes 25th Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court
Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson celebrated her investiture as Chief Justice in a public ceremony Feb. 28 on the steps of the Louisiana Supreme Court. She is the 25th chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court and the first African-American chief justice of the court since its establishment in 1813.
Marc H. Morial, president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League, noted the historical significance of the occasion. “This is a great day in Louisiana that has been long in coming. I am excited to take part in this event where the highest court in the state of Louisiana, on the eve of its 200th birthday, turns another important page in history,” Morial said. “We gather to honor the achievements of Bernette Johnson and to also bear witness to the once unimaginable becoming the order of the day . . . the investiture of the first African-American Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.”
Chief Justice Johnson’s judicial career began in 1984 when she was elected to the Orleans Parish Civil District Court and was the first woman to hold that office. She was re-elected, without opposition, in 1990 and was elected chief judge by her colleagues in 1994. Chief Justice Johnson was elected to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1994 and was re-elected, without opposition, in 2000 and 2010. She represents the Seventh Supreme Court District which includes Orleans and Jefferson parishes.
U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart administered the ceremonial oath of office which was followed by a 17-gun salute presented by the 1-141st Field Artillery Battalion of the Washington Artillery of New Orleans.
Chief Justice Johnson took her official oath of office on Feb. 1 in a courtroom ceremony. Administering the oath of office was her daughter, Rachael D. Johnson.
Several public officials took part in honoring Chief Justice Johnson on Feb. 28, including U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Louisiana Attorney General James D. (Buddy) Caldwell, State Sen. Edwin Murray, State Rep. Katrina Jackson, State Rep. Walter Leger and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Also participating in the ceremony were representatives from several professional organizations, including John H. Musser IV, Louisiana State Bar Association president; John Page, National Bar Association president; Judge Joan V. Churchill, National Association of Women Judges; and R. Patrick Vance, New Orleans Bar Association past president. Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, and Judge Edwin A. Lombard, Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, represented the judiciary.
On Jan. 31, Chief Justice Catherine D. (Kitty) Kimball officially retired, after 20 years of service on the Louisiana Supreme Court bench. She served as an associate justice representing the Fifth Supreme Court District from 1992-2008. In January 2009, she was sworn in as chief justice, making her the first woman chief justice in Louisiana.
Succeeding Chief Justice Kimball in representing the Fifth Supreme Court District is 1st Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Jefferson D. Hughes III. The Fifth Supreme Court District includes Ascension, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and West Feliciana parishes.