In The News › Elimination of Orleans juvenile judge seat hits a snag, prompting Landrieu administration lawsuit

Aug 11, 2014

Source: | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Courts, Orleans Parish

Elimination of Orleans juvenile judge seat hits a snag, prompting Landrieu administration lawsuit

By Robert McClendon | The Times-Picayune

August 11, 2014

A victory in New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s battle to reduce the size of the local Juvenile Court bench seemed within grasp this spring, when he pushed through a law eliminating two seats.

But that effort has hit a snag. Secretary of State Tom Schedler has indicated that he will, despite the new law, put five of the bench’s six seats on the ballot this fall.

The law eliminated one seat outright, effective at the end of this year. It’s currently occupied by Judge Lawrence Lagarde, who is retiring.

The next elimination would happen the first time a seat was vacated due to a judge’s death, resignation, retirement, removal from office or “disqualification from exercising any judicial function.”

That last provision was added to the law following the May suspension of Judge Yolanda King. She was indicted in March on charges of lying about where she lived in a sworn affidavit filed prior to her 2013 electoral run. She says she lives in New Orleans, but prosecutors say she was a resident of Slidell where she owned a home.

King’s suspension is temporary, pending the outcome of her criminal case.

The legislation had been in the works in Baton Rouge long before King was indicted, but the language added to the law after her suspension mirrors precisely the language used by the Supreme Court in its decision on her case, which suggests it was added specifically to target her seat.

The Landrieu administration on Monday filed a lawsuit in state court in Baton Rouge seeking to bar the secretary of state from adding King’s seat to the ballot.

The secretary of state’s office declined to comment on the pending litigation.

The lawsuit points to King’s suspension. Given the language of the law and the language of her suspension, the lawsuit argues, her seat has already been abolished, and Schedler is attempting to hold an election for a seat that no longer exists.

The lawsuit also names Criminal District Court Clerk Arthur Morrell, who is in charge of local elections, as a defendant. The lawsuit says Morrell “has indicated that (King’s) judicial seat cannot be abolished.”

Morrell did not respond to calls for comment on the case.

Landrieu first sought to reduce the size of the juvenile bench in 2013. A report issued that year by the Bureau of Government Research found that a single judge could handle the Juvenile Court caseload, which has been in decline since the 1980s.

The elimination of both Juvenile Court judgeships would save $1 million annually, Landrieu’s office has said. Money saved would be directed toward services for youths.

Despite her legal entanglements, King’s attorney has said she intends to run for reelection.

Aug 11, 2014

Source: | The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Courts, Orleans Parish

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