Retired Judges of America Helps Make History!

DeSoto’s district attorney, judges make history today


By Vickie Welborn • • December 12, 2008 5:25 pm

History was made and remembered today as the first district attorney and first judges to represent the newly created 42nd Judicial District of DeSoto Parish received their formal oaths of office.

District Attorney Richard Z. Johnson Jr. and District Judges Robert E. Burgess and Charles B. Adams [see letter of acknowledgment here] got a head start on their swearing in to get it out of the way of the upcoming holidays. And also because the legislation this year that created the 42nd Judicial District calls for them to begin their terms Jan. 1.

The DeSoto courtroom was full of family, friends, local and visiting elected officials and even three classes of elementary schoolchildren from Pelican All Saints High School.

With the new district came a new tradition for Burgess and Adams. Darrell White, a retired city judge and former military judge for the Louisiana National Guard, presented the judges with a leather Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible.

Following a tradition begun in 1906 by the U.S. Supreme Court, Burgess and Adams signed the flyleaf of the Bible.

White, president of the Retired Judges of America, explained that former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, who served from 1833 to 1911, gave a Bible to the high court and its flyleaf pages have been signed by every justice in succession shortly after taking the oath of office – a tradition of more than 100 years. The original, known as the Harlan Bible, is maintained by the court’s curator and only removed during signing ceremonies.

The tradition is encouraged as a reminder to the judges to stay true to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence. “Changing times to not change timeless truths, and history shows that the Bible has played a pivotal role in shaping America’s law and culture. One key purpose of our Constitution is to secure the blessing of liberty to our posterity. Calling attention to DeSoto Parish’s court presentation Bible can help secure that future here for our children and grandchildren,” White said.

Johnson, too, received a Bible from the Black Lawyers Association. His wife, Fredrena Johnson, held the Bible as Judge Carl E. Stewart, U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, administered the oath.

Betty Burgess, Robert Burgess’ mother, and Susan Adams, Charles Adams’ wife, took turns holding the Bible that White donated as Louisiana Supreme Court Associate Justice Jeffery Victory, of Shreveport, administered their respective oaths. Burgess begins his fourth term, and Adams his third.

As of Jan. 1, DeSoto Parish no longer will be part of the 11th Judicial District that had included Sabine Parish. Sabine retains the 11th Judicial District label, and District Attorney Don Burkett and District Judge Stephen Beasley will be the officeholders there.

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