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    Federal Judges Block Newly Drawn Louisiana Congressional Map

    A panel of federal judges blocked Louisiana on Tuesday from using a newly drawn congressional map that had been designed to form a second district with a majority of Black voters, creating uncertainty just months before an election that could play a critical role in determining the balance of power in the House of Representatives.The new districts had been outlined in January during a special session of the State Legislature. Lawmakers had been ordered to sketch out the new boundaries after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the previous map had very likely violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of Black residents.But in a 2-to-1 decision released on Tuesday, a separate panel of federal judges sided with challengers who argued that the new map was an “impermissible racial gerrymander” that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.The challenge had been brought by a group of residents scattered across the newly formed district who described themselves as “non-African American” voters. They argued that lawmakers had moved to “segregate voters based entirely on their races” and that to achieve that, they had stitched together “communities in far-flung regions of Louisiana.”Critics assailed the ruling on Tuesday, saying that it threatened vital protections for voters of color. “The court’s ruling today unnecessarily puts Louisianians’ right to vote in a very precarious position,” Eric H. Holder Jr., the former U.S. attorney general and current chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said in a statement.The court will hold a hearing on May 6 to discuss which boundaries will be used in the coming election.“We will of course be seeking Supreme Court review,” Louisiana’s attorney general, Liz Murrill, wrote on social media. “I’ve said all along the Supreme Court needs to clear this up.” More

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    Louisiana Will Get a New City After a Yearslong Court Battle

    The State Supreme Court cleared the way for a part of Baton Rouge to become the city of St. George. Critics say the white, wealthier enclave separating from the capital could have devastating consequences.The original plan was to start a school district. That didn’t work. So a group of residents in a sprawling unincorporated suburb of Baton Rouge, La., expanded their idea: Create a city of their own, called St. George.In 2015, they collected signatures to bring their proposal up for a vote, but didn’t get enough. In 2019, they tried again. This time, they made it to a ballot and won the election, only to be stalled by a lengthy court battle.But the Louisiana Supreme Court cleared the way on Friday for the formation of St. George, a city of nearly 100,000 people that joins the ranks of the state’s largest cities, falling between Lafayette and Lake Charles in population. It is the first city to be incorporated in Louisiana in nearly two decades.A majority of justices found that lower courts had erred in blocking the city’s creation over concerns of its financial viability.“This is the culmination of citizens exercising their constitutional rights,” Andrew Murrell, a leader of the effort to create the city, said in a statement, adding, “Now we begin the process of delivering on our promises of a better city.”The city will consist of an area of East Baton Rouge Parish, which is run by a blended government that oversees both Baton Rouge and the broader parish. It also carves out a largely white and more affluent section of the parish, southeast of Baton Rouge.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Louisiana coroner accused of child abuse cuts sexual assault exam program

    Having been elected against no opposition despite prior charges of child molestation, the chief medical examiner of a south-east Louisiana community with more than a quarter-million residents took office Monday, poised to deliver on a pledge to eliminate an agency program that has helped collect key evidence in cases of sexual assault.Dr Christopher Tape, 53, is expected to ultimately face an effort from voters to subject him to a recall election and force him from office, the top local government official in St Tammany parish has told the outlet, which exposed the new coroner’s criminal history.But that drive to remove Tape must clear a relatively high procedural threshold now that he’s in place at the parish – or county, in Louisiana parlance – coroner’s office.Tape was indicted in New Mexico in 2002 on charges that he sexually assaulted his then girlfriend’s daughter, who was seven at the time, as local TV station WWL Louisiana first reported in February. A court in that state later found prosecutors took too long between arresting and indicting Tape – who was a medical school student at the time – and tossed the charges, saying his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been unduly compromised.Eventually, Tape landed work at the St Tammany coroner’s office – which primarily handles investigations of deaths in the parish with a population of about 270,000 but also offers a range of other services, including mental health commitments and sexual assault nurse examinations.Tape in August signed up to run to take over the $11m dollar office, and the incumbent – Dr Charles Preston – declined to seek re-election. No one else came forward as a candidate, meaning Tape was automatically elected to succeed Preston.But the transition from Preston to Tape in an office that is roughly 50 miles (80 km) north of New Orleans has been anything but smooth.First, in October, Preston fired Tape, accusing the latter man of improperly disclosing medical test results and violating their office’s confidentiality policies, as the local news site Nola.com reported.Then, on 11 February, WWL Louisiana investigative reporter David Hammer not only revealed that a technicality had spared Tape from being tried on six charges of child sexual assault in New Mexico, WWL also uncovered how Tape in 2022 had struck an out-of-court settlement with a 26-year-old employee at his private forensic pathology practice who alleged that he made unwanted sexual advances toward her.All of St Tammany’s top elected officials subsequently demanded that Tape resign without beginning his four-year term, which began at midnight Monday. But he made it clear he had no intention of satisfying those demands.In fact, four days before his term kicked off, Tape announced that – after he took over – the coroner’s office would no longer provide its sexual assault nurse examiner (Sane) program. He said local hospitals instead would be responsible for the service, which involved collecting evidence that was vital for the prosecution of sexual assault crimes, as Nola.com reported.Tape’s policy shift ignited a fresh outcry. The office’s Sane program worked with sexual assault survivors in a region that included four parishes other than St Tammany. Louisiana state lawmakers told Nola.com that the hospitals affected by Tape’s change were “not prepared to do this right off the bat”, especially ones in certain rural parts.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“To throw this in their lap without any real notice – it’s insane,” one of those lawmakers, state senator Patrick McMath, said to Nola.com.St Tammany parish president Mike Cooper has told WWL it is widely expected that voters will quickly try to recall Tape. Though Cooper anticipated most – if not all – of St Tammany’s elected officials would support the recall effort, getting such a measure on a ballot would legally require the certified signature of 37,000 locally registered voters, or 20% of the parish’s electorate.Gathering that many valid signatures, however, is somewhat of “a heavy lift”, state House member Jay Galle separately told WWL. And Galle said he would consult his fellow state legislators to explore whether there was some kind of way through the lawmaking process “to provide some way to find a different coroner for St Tammany parish”.Tape nonetheless reported to work as Sunday turned into Monday. And after being sworn in, at a news conference he said he would not step down. He defended his decision to discontinue the Sane program, saying he was protecting local taxpayers from financing examinations for residents of other parishes.Furthermore, he denied being an abuser.“I don’t know what people want me to do,” Tape said. “It’s innocent until proven guilty. Do you not believe in that?” More

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    Louisiana Democrat wins sheriff’s race do-over after first victory was disputed

    Months after his disputed one-vote victory in a Louisiana sheriff’s race was tossed by a court, a Democrat was decisively elected over his Republican rival on his second try Saturday.Henry Whitehorn got 53% of the vote in Saturday’s election in north-west Louisiana’s Caddo parish. He’ll be the first Black sheriff in the parish – which is the word Louisiana uses for county – after defeating John Nickelson, who is white.Returns from the Louisiana secretary of state’s office show Whitehorn defeated Nickelson by more than 4,000 votes this time.Turnout was considerably higher in the second race. State figures show 65,239 people voted in Saturday’s sheriff’s race – up from 43,247 in November.A former head of the Louisiana state police and ex-Shreveport police chief, Whitehorn won by a single vote in November. But courts ordered a new election after finding evidence that two people illegally voted twice and four others voted despite being ineligible.Whitehorn had come out of retirement to run for sheriff after longtime Sheriff Steve Prator announced his retirement.“I’m troubled by the violent crime that’s plaguing our community. I had retired and I could have just sat on the sidelines, if I chose to, and watched. But I’ve been called to serve. I couldn’t just sit and watch this community suffer,” Whitehorn told the Shreveport-Bossier City Advocate.Nickelson conceded Saturday night as Whitehorn’s victory became apparent. “I wish him every success because his success will be Caddo parish’s success,” Nickelson said.Whitehorn will be sworn in on 1 July, replacing interim sheriff Jay Long who took over from Prator on 1 March.Saturday’s victory for Whitehorn came while voters in Louisiana also voted in the state’s presidential preference primary.Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump and Joe Biden won the Republican and Democratic primaries, respectively, in dominant fashion. The former president captured 90% of the vote, and the Democratic incumbent took 86%, Associated Press results show. More

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    Former Deacon Excommunicated After Confronting Priest’s Sexual Abuse

    A Louisiana priest was convicted in the sexual abuse of the ex-deacon’s son. What followed was a lawsuit and now the Catholic Church’s highest censure.A Catholic priest who sexually assaulted an altar boy in Louisiana is in prison, and a diocese has paid a settlement to the victim’s family. Now the diocese’s bishop has punished the victim’s father, a former deacon, with the Church’s highest censure: excommunication.It was the latest turn in a yearslong battle pitting the former deacon, Scott Peyton, and his family against the Diocese of Lafayette.The Peytons and the diocese have found themselves on opposing sides of a state law that gave childhood sexual abuse victims more time to file lawsuits.The law, which was passed in the State Legislature in 2021 but struck down on Friday by the state’s highest court, did not apply exclusively to victims of clergy abuse. However, the law prompted new civil suits against Louisiana churches and clergy members who worked for them.The battle has its roots in 2018, when Mr. Peyton’s son Oliver accused the parish priest at St. Peter Catholic Church in Morrow of sexually assaulting him three years earlier, when he was 16. Scott Peyton served the same priest, Father Michael Guidry, as a deacon.While the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office investigated the allegations, Father Guidry was suspended from his church duties and later confessed to the assault, according to court records.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Louisiana Democratic Presidential Primary Election Results 2024

    Source: Election results are from The Associated Press.Produced by Michael Andre, Camille Baker, Neil Berg, Michael Beswetherick, Matthew Bloch, Irineo Cabreros, Nate Cohn, Alastair Coote, Annie Daniel, Saurabh Datar, Leo Dominguez, Andrew Fischer, Martín González Gómez, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Jasmine C. Lee, Alex Lemonides, Ilana Marcus, Alicia Parlapiano, Elena Shao, Charlie Smart, Urvashi Uberoy, Isaac White and Christine Zhang. Additional reporting by Patrick Hays; production by Amanda Cordero and Jessica White.
    Editing by Wilson Andrews, Lindsey Rogers Cook, William P. Davis, Amy Hughes, Ben Koski and Allison McCartney. More

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    Louisiana Republican Presidential Primary Election Results 2024

    Source: Election results are from The Associated Press.Produced by Michael Andre, Camille Baker, Neil Berg, Michael Beswetherick, Matthew Bloch, Irineo Cabreros, Nate Cohn, Alastair Coote, Annie Daniel, Saurabh Datar, Leo Dominguez, Andrew Fischer, Martín González Gómez, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Jasmine C. Lee, Alex Lemonides, Ilana Marcus, Alicia Parlapiano, Elena Shao, Charlie Smart, Urvashi Uberoy, Isaac White and Christine Zhang. Additional reporting by Patrick Hays; production by Amanda Cordero and Jessica White.
    Editing by Wilson Andrews, Lindsey Rogers Cook, William P. Davis, Amy Hughes, Ben Koski and Allison McCartney. More

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    Sixteen States Sue Biden Administration Over Gas Permit Pause

    President Biden halted approvals for new exports of liquefied natural gas to study its effect on the climate, national security and the economy. Major oil- and gas-producing states are angry.Louisiana and 15 other Republican-led states sued the Biden administration on Thursday over its decision to temporarily stop approving new permits for facilities that export liquefied natural gas.The lawsuit contends that the Biden administration acted illegally when it decided in January to pause the approvals so it could study how gas exports affect climate change, the economy and national security.Filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, the lawsuit asks a judge to end the pause, arguing that the White House had flouted the regulatory process and instead taken action “by fiat.”“There is no legal basis for the pause,” Elizabeth B. Murrill, the attorney general of Louisiana, which led the legal challenge, said in an interview.Ms. Murrill, who referred to the pause as a ban, said halting permits for any amount of time would hurt states’ economies and would have significant long-term consequences abroad by restricting supplies of gas from the United States to Europe.The United States is the world’s top exporter of natural gas. Liquefied natural gas is a gas that has been cooled to a liquid state to allow for shipping and storage. Even with the pause, the country is still on track to nearly double its export capacity by 2027 because of projects already permitted and under construction. But any expansions beyond that are now in doubt.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More