The Louisiana Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. The Court is comprised of seven associate justices, whose primary responsibility, as a panel, consists of correcting the errors of the lower state courts—both civil and criminal. The Supreme Court also has exclusive original jurisdiction over disciplinary proceedings against a member of the bar. Three candidates are vying to become the next associate justice for the 7th District, replacing retiring Chief Justice Bernette Johnson.
SANDRA CABRINA JENKINS
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sandra Cabrina Jenkins says she wants to bring her diverse experience and vision for justice to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
“I am running because of my vision and passion for justice,” she says. “I am distinguished from anyone else in the race because of my diversity of experience. I have been in New Orleans for over 31 years. My first job was with the District Attorney’s Office in Orleans Parish. I have tried over 100 cases jury and judge.”
Before she left the DA’s office, Jenkins was in general screening, making determinations on whether cases should be prosecuted.
“I am one of the few in the state of Louisiana that came from the criminal defense bar to the appellate court. The last 15 years of my 23 years of practice, I was a criminal defense attorney. Typically when we have judges ascend to the Louisiana Supreme Court, they come from civil practice or civil district courts. That’s not a negative, per se; but we are continuing to stack the Court with the same type of experience. Now, we have the opportunity to select a supreme court justice with a criminal justice background.”
In addition to her stint with the DA’s office and 15 years in private practice, Jenkins served as a pro se staff attorney for the Fourth Circuit Appeal Court, was the special appeal counsel for Washington Parish, and the appellate counsel for the Louisiana Appellate Project. She was elected to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in 2012. If elected to the Supreme Court, Judge Jenkins she intends to be an independent voice in the interest of justice.
“I understand the process of deliberation. I understand the freedom of individual judges to write opinions as they see it and to write dissents. I have not been fearful of writing opinions where I have been the lone dissenter. I will continue to be independent in my thought.”
In addition to being a licensed minister at First Emanuel Baptist Church, she is involved in several organizations, including GirlTrek, a national health movement for Black women and girls, and Legal Education Advancing Diversity, a mentoring program for aspiring law school students enrolled at HBCUs. She also established Judge Jenkins Law Camps. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Southern University, and her juris doctorate from Southern University Law Center and her master’s degree in divinity from McAcfee School of Theology.
Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin says she is ready to serve on the state’s highest court.
“I have been blessed to serve this community as a Civil District Court Judge for the past 20 years,” says Griffin. “And I am prepared to offer my experiences, my leadership and my management skills for the associate justice position. I have served in leadership capacities on my Court as the chief judge. I have served in administrative capacity on (judiciary committees). And I have been a leader among judges across the state.”
Griffin is the immediate past president of the Louisiana Judicial Council of the National Bar Association, the state’s organization of Black judges. She is the second vice-president of the Louisiana District Judges Association and a member of the Louisiana State Law Institute Council and the Greater New Orleans Louis Martinet Society.
She says the Court needs a strong leader to represent the 7th District.
“The Supreme Court is the court that really sets policy in our judicial system, manages the entire system, and even as we engage in conversations about justice and equality—the Supreme Court is where the buck stops,” Griffin says, adding that if elected she will work to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Court, to build confidence in the judiciary and address the “racism locally and across the state as it related to the administration of justice.”
“The Court needs to make a concerted effort to educate judges on the reality of implicit bias and work to ensure the issue is specifically addressed by the Supreme Court as recommended by Chief Justice (Bernette) Johnson in her open letter.”
Griffin’s dedication to the community was perhaps best displayed when she joined a handful of other Xavier Prep alumni in the successful effort to save the school from closing, reopening the institution as St. Katherine Drexel Prep High School.
With 13 years of experience as a practicing attorney and 20 years as judge, Griffin has a combined 33 years of legal experience. Before being elected judge, she was selected to fill a vacancy on Civil District Court. She also served as an ad hoc judge in Juvenile Court. As an attorney, she has handled cases as both plaintiff and defense counsel.
Griffin is a graduate of Xavier Prep High School and the University of Notre Dame. She earned her juris doctorate from the Louisiana State University School of Law.
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Terri Love calls her bid for the state Supreme Court “a natural progression” having worked in the judiciary for the past 25 years.
“I am the only candidate in this race to have extensive trial and appellate court experience,” she says. “Almost 40 percent of the Supreme Court’s work is on criminal matters; and my criminal judicial experience far exceeds that of any other candidate in the race. As an appellate judge for the past 20 years, I have authored over 700 appellate opinions on both civil and criminal matters and issued over 2,000 interlocutory criminal and civil writ dispositions.”
Before being elected to the Forth Circuit Court of Appeal, Love served as an ad hoc judge in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, as chief deputy city attorney, and as a judge in Civil District Court.
“My greatest career accomplishment is co-authoring the City of New Orleans’ first domestic violence ordinance, a measure that became the blueprint for how the city protects families and individuals experiencing abuse.”
Now, Love wants to bring her leadership and administrative skills to the state’s highest court.
Her plans include raising awareness of the workings of the judicial system by implementing technological advancements that increase public access to the judicial process and building public confidence in the Court with the “timely and just resolution of all matters.”
Love says she wants to create a task force to study judicial delays to ensure alignment with national standards.
“I plan to utilize my administrative leadership skill set as an experienced appellate court judge to strengthen the Court’s functions as the state’s hub of judicial administration.”
Outside of the courtroom, Love touts her extensive involvement through the community, which includes serving as chairwoman of the City’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Planning Commission, as a JOB 1 mentor for students, on the board of the Family Justice Center, as the scholarship chairwoman for Ideal Baptist Association and for the Freemen Baptist Association among many others roles throughout the community.
Love is a graduate of Jackson State University and Tulane University School of Law.