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Justice official: Continuing civil rights work of Ortique, others, is critical

U.S. Department of Justice photo/Courtbouillon
Kristen Clarke

NEW ORLEANS (November 22, 2021) – We must honor giants like the late Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Revius O. Ortique Jr. as we continue their work, said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke here Nov. 18.

Clarke gave the Ortique Lecture on Law and Society, launched in 2010 to highlight the 1947 graduate of Dillard who became the first black judge on the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1992 after earning his law degree from Southern University Law Center in 1956. The lecture showcases the university’s long-standing history and commitment to civil rights engagement.

Clarke’s work for the U.S. Department of Justice includes the April indictment at the federal level of three men charged with a hate crime in the fatal shooting of 25-year-old jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia. Closing arguments in the trial are under way today.

Clarke said the Justice Department has increased its prosecution rate this year, with more than 20 people charged in 15 different cases.

“The Department of Justice and Civil Rights Division are committed to uphold every person’s constitutional right to live free from hate-free violence and intimidation,” she said.

She said prosecuting hate crimes sends a powerful, necessary message to those who are affected and to the broader community that they are valued, that their communities are important and that the federal government will not stand by when they are targeted.

Clarke called Ortique’s life “one of remarkable public service rooted in a drive to push our nation ever to its ideal.” She said Ortique was a fearless young attorney setting up his own private practice to take on labor and civil rights cases throughout Louisiana.

Clarke also said she is privileged to carry on the civil rights fight by addressing some of the most pressing and complex rights issues of our time, such as  protecting communities through hate-crimes laws, working to improve the justice system and working to protect the right to vote.

Clarke acknowledged interim U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans, who is based in Louisiana, and Louisiana Supreme Court Associate Justice Piper Griffin. Both are black.

Clarke, whose parents emigrated from Jamaica, grew up in Brooklyn. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and her juris doctorate from Columbia Law School. She was recognized as a “Rising Star” in 2015 by the New York Journal and was listed in the National Bar Association’s “Top 40 Under 40.”

She co-edited the 2009 edition of the book “Barack Obama and African American Empowerment: The Rise of Black America's New Leadership.”

(Lawrence Raymond contributed to this report.)

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Justice official: Continuing civil rights work of Ortique, others, is critical