U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today applauded the historic installation of Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson, Louisiana's first African American and only second female chief justice.
"I congratulate Justice Johnson on a stellar legal and judicial career and thank her for her fighting spirit, commitment to equality and deep respect for the dignity of all citizens. The Louisiana Constitution is, no doubt, in safe hands," Sen. Landrieu said. "From advocating with the NAACP, to helping implement the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to now becoming Louisiana's first African American Supreme Court Justice, Bernette Johnson's life and career is a testament to the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement and the long line of Americans who fought tirelessly to open the doors of equality. This is truly an historic moment."
Johnson was elected to the Supreme Court in 1994 and re-elected in 2000. She began her judicial career in 1984 as the first woman elected to serve on the Civil District Court of New Orleans. An alumnus of Spelman College in Atlanta, she received her Juris Doctor Degree from the Law School at Louisiana State University. While in law school, she worked at the U.S. Department of Justice examining cases filed by the Department to implement the 1964 Civil Rights Act, mostly concerning discrimination in public accommodations.
Following law school, Justice Johnson became the Managing Attorney with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation, where she delivered legal services to over 3,000 clients in socio-economically deprived neighborhoods. As a civil litigator, she worked in the Federal and State District Courts, and Juvenile Court advancing the rights of children, the poor, the elderly, and the disenfranchised.
In the 1960s, Johnson worked as a community organizer with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. She worked with community groups in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Louisiana, disseminating information about recent school desegregation decisions, and encouraged parents to take advantage of newly desegregated schools.