In The News › Orleans Civil Court judge disputes BGR report

Sep 4, 2013

Source: FOX 8

Filed under: Courts, Government Finance, Orleans Parish

Orleans Civil Court judge disputes BGR report

FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

By Rob Masson

FOX 8

September 4, 2013

New Orleans, La. – New Orleans, La. – City officials say a new report that calls for the elimination of half the judgeships at Orleans Criminal and Civil courts could go a long way toward paying for badly needed city services.

As state lawmakers prepare to consider severe judicial cutbacks, one longtime judge says it may be premature.

The Bureau of Governmental Research report cuts little slack.

“What it’s showing is in Orleans Parish, there should be 20 judges, but in fact there are 45,” said Janet Howard with the BGR.

But Civil Court Judge Kern Reese says the formula may be flawed. “Their numbers may be apples, and ours may be oranges, and that might not make a good sangria.”

The report says that cutting the number of judges could save $14 million a year, similar to a 2011 report from Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatreveaux.

In his report, Quatreveaux says: “The problem is we’re wasting millions of dollars a year at a time when we have desperate needs (such as) consent decrees.”

The consent decrees for the Police Department and Orleans Parish Prison could cost more than $20 million a year. That’s money the IG says could be made up by cutting judges and merging Orleans Traffic and Municipal courts. He said the latter could save up to $4 million a year.

The BGR report calls for eliminating six of 13 Criminal Court judgeships, and seven of 14 Civil Court judgeships.

“The outcomes have been consistent,” said City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who chairs the Council Criminal Justice Committee. “We have way more judges than we need.”

But Judge Reese says massive cuts could delay some trials for years due to the complexity of many cases in a city he says handles more jury trials than the rest of the state’s parishes combined.

“We handled the tobacco case that went on for 10 years,” Reese said. “We get that in New Orleans.”

The BGR report hit Juvenile Court hard. It said five of the six judges there aren’t needed at all, and that’s a subject one New Orleans lawmaker is very familiar with. Last year, State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, tried but failed to get the Legislature to eliminate two Orleans Juvenile Court judgeships, fewer than the five recommended by BGR.

“It’s never happened,” Moreno said. “The Legislature has never abolished a judgeship.”

The head of a committee looking at judicial efficiencies statewide helped defeat the Moreno measure. It’s headed by Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans.

“I opposed the bill because I thought we should wait to see what the information said,” Murray said.

That information is expected to be released before the next legislative session, when Moreno will once again try to trim judgeships.

“It’s so clear and obvious that the city needs this money to deal with the crime problem,” Moreno said.

Whether her colleagues agree remains to be seen.

We reached out to Orleans Criminal Court for comment on the BGR’s call for the elimination of seven judgeships. We were told that the judges would reserve comment until after they meet on Friday.

“The BGR report confirms again what we already know,” said a statement released by Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin. “We have too many judges in New Orleans.’

Sep 4, 2013

Source: FOX 8

Filed under: Courts, Government Finance, Orleans Parish

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