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Feds asked to review debate over La. chief justice

Several black Louisiana elected officials are asking the Justice Department's civil rights division to intervene in a dispute over whether state Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson is legally entitled to become the court's next chief justice.

A letter sent Monday to the head of the division's voting section accuses Johnson's colleagues of trying to dilute the rights of black voters by unilaterally creating a new process for deciding which justice has the most seniority.

The letter says the court should have consulted the Justice Department before deciding to debate and vote on whether Johnson, the court's only black justice, or Justice Jeffrey Victory should succeed Chief Justice Catherine Kimball.

Two attorneys sent the letter on behalf of four state senators, two New Orleans City Council members and other elected officials.

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