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White residents lose legal fight in federal court

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BATON ROUGE - Federal Judge Brian Jackson ruled against two white residents in the City of St. Gabriel who sued claiming their voting rights are being violated.

The pair claimed they don't have equal representation on the city council since all five of the council members are African-American. Judge Jackson ruled there was not enough evidence to support their claims that their rights had been violated.

The group wanted districts set up where elected officials would represent people in those areas. Currently, St. Gabriel has an at-large system where the top vote getters automatically win.

"Very disappointed, I really thought we had a good case," said Barry Leblanc, one of the plaintiffs. "I feel the people of St. Gabriel lost."

Leblanc said his fight in court was never about race. Instead, he wanted to know who he should call if he had a problem in the city.

"The way it stands now with the at-large system, you can't just call anybody," Leblanc said. "You don't know who to call."

The attorney representing the City of St. Gabriel was thrilled at the judge's ruling. He said all along the white residents could not prove that discrimination.

Leblanc also acknowledged Thursday he had no specific examples of where the African-American council members acted or did not act when they needed them.

Right now, it's unclear if the pair will appeal.

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