A new judge is expected to take over a court case challenging Terrebonne Parish’s voting practices following the death of the federal judge who presided over it, attorneys said.
U.S. District Judge James Brady died Dec. 9 in Baton Rouge following a brief illness. He was 73. Brady had served as a federal judge since 2000 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton and became a senior judge in 2013.
Brady presided over the eight-day trial last year that questioned the way Terrebonne Parish elects its judges. In 2014, Terrebonne’s NAACP chapter filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge alleging the parish’s at-large voting system illegally diluted black voter strength. The lawsuit sought to have the state create a district-based method of electing judges in the parish in an effort to create a minority district.
Leah Aden, of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who represents the Terrebonne NAACP in the lawsuit, said the case will be reassigned to one of the three other judges who sit on the Middle District, Shelly Dick, John DeGravelles or Chief Judge Brian Jackson.
“There’s nothing super immediate in our case. So my understanding is once it’s reassigned, we or one of the other parties will request a status conference with the new judge to get him or her up to speed as to where we are with the case,” Aden said. “We will also urge the new judge to follow what Judge Brady indicated in his minute entries, which was to pay attention to what the Louisiana Legislature does in its next session.”
Although Brady’s death leaves a major void in the case, he left copious notes behind that will help to guide his successor, Aden said.
“It’s unfortunate that the judge passed,” Aden said. “He was obviously very knowledgeable about the case. But he wrote a very detailed ruling and that detailed ruling should guide future judges at the district court level or appellate court level. He was very thorough.”
In his meticulously detailed 91-page ruling Aug. 17, Brady “found a strong case of vote dilution” and “no black candidate who has faced opposition in Terrebonne has been elected to an at-large position and black candidates have received incredibly minimal support from white voters, a pattern which has been consistent over the course of more than 20 years.”
Brady’s final involvement with the case came Nov. 1, when he denied the state’s request to delay enforcement of his ruling while the Attorney General’s Office appeals.
Prior to being appointed to the federal judgeship, Brady served as chairman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. He has ruled in several key civil-rights cases across the state.
Shortly after his colleague’s death, Jackson issued a statement praising Brady for his years of service on the bench.
“The judges of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana mourn the loss of our esteemed colleague and friend, Judge James J. Brady,” Jackson said. “Judge Brady’s remarkable career as a federal judge was exemplary and his commitment to providing equal justice under the law resonated throughout his career as a lawyer and a judge. He will forever be remembered for his extraordinary integrity, compassion and devotion to the rule of law.”
The U. S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana is planning to honor Brady during a ceremony at a later date, Jackson said.
--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 857-2202 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@DanVCopp.