In The News › Group seeks big cut in number of Orleans judges

Sep 4, 2013

Source: The Associated Press

Filed under: Courts, Government Finance, Orleans Parish

Group seeks big cut in number of Orleans judges

By The Associated Press

September 4, 2013

A New Orleans-based government watchdog group says the city could save $14 million a year by reducing the number of judges in the local court system from 45 to about 20.

The report was issued Tuesday by the Bureau of Governmental Research.

A report by a state committee on Louisiana’s 97 district and city courts is due in February. But BGR president Janet Howard said fast action is needed in New Orleans to reduce the number of judges before next year’s judicial elections.

“It’s no secret to everyone that Orleans Parish has numerous unmet needs both in areas of services and areas of infrastructure,” Howard told The Times-Picayune. “To the extent that you’re spending money on unnecessary services, you’re depriving citizens of the services they really need.”

Among the findings: The study found that the Juvenile Court in Orleans Parish could stand to lose five of its six judges, the number of Criminal District Court judges could go from 13 to 7 and Civil District Court judges should be cut from 14 to 7.

Orleans Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese said in an interview in The Advocate (http://bit.ly/15D8A7a) that reducing the number of judges to the extent suggested in the report could lengthen complicated cases by years.

“It doesn’t take into account extraneous factors that the district courts have” in New Orleans, Reese said of the report. He noted a litany of class-action, asbestos and maritime cases on the docket. “We deal with those cases on a regular basis. The complexity of cases has not relented. The report is kind of formulaic.”

The state committee led by Sen. Edwin Murray, D-New Orleans, was established by a House resolution known as HCR 143,

Late Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Bernette Johnson issued a statement noting that the committee is to hold a hearing in October. She said she is certain the committee, as well as the Judicial Council – the high court’s research arm – will review the BGR report.

“However, ultimately, the state legislature is tasked with the creation and funding of judgeships which is why the Supreme Court will be guided by the work of the 143 Committee,” the statement said. “We believe it is important to allow the 143 Committee to finish its work, and we look forward to reviewing the culmination of the Committee’s efforts and its recommendations.”

A BGR news release says the watchdog group used the Judicial Council’s own formula for assessing judicial workloads.

“The Judicial Council’s formula suggests that the court system in Orleans parish has far more judges than are needed. According to the formula’s estimates, the parish’s seven courts need 20 judges, or less than half of the 45 they currently have. Six of the courts have more than twice as many judges as they need,” the BGR said.

Sep 4, 2013

Source: The Associated Press

Filed under: Courts, Government Finance, Orleans Parish

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