Budget Crisis at New Orleans Criminal Court!!

Parish Prison, New Orleans, March 14, 1891

March 14, 1891  New Orleans after mistrial is declared for the men arrested for the murder of police chief David Hennessy. Citizens gather at the Parish Prison in Treme. Speakers would soon would insight the crowd to riot and lynch the prisoners.

Chief Judge Camille Buras says layoffs and salary cuts are on the immediate horizon. Criminal court gets its funds from a trio of sources: the state, city, and funds generated by the court itself from fees and fines the court collected.

In 2011, the court spend roughly 1o million, according to the Legislative Auditor. The city has cut their share by 31% for 2013. New Orleans is so broke they want to stop the very important consent decrees that NOPD and OPP recently signed with the Justice Department for financial reasons!

Add to this D.A. Cannizzaro’s decision to move misdemeanor cases to Municipal Court, which removes roughly $500,000 from Criminal Court coffers in fines and fees. When Buras appeared before the City Council for additional funds, the judges’ smarmy years old practice of purchasing very expensive supplemental insurance plans for $200,000/year came under fire.

Cannizzaro made comments about prosecuting the judges for their pricy insurance policies when all this came to light. He admitted when he was a judge, he participated in the extra insurance purchases. However, since the statute of limitations for his purchases had lapsed, he was still free to prosecute the current judges.  Is it possible to be more two faced than Cannizzaro is being here? I hardly think so.

The 600 lb gorilla in the Council’s room was the two part study, commissioned by City Hall, which found the New Orleans’ court systems  fragmented and archaic, and put forth recommendations that the courts be consolidated and court staffs be cut by 25%.

Orleans Parish Criminal Court

Orleans Parish Criminal Court

It really sounds  dead wrong that the city has run out of money in a rather big way and is taking all kinds of hard steps to stay within budget. I suggest the mayor hits up the Gates Foundation, NY mayor Bloomberg, etc. and attempt to attain some funds that way. The city cannot thrive with so many crucial services being cut, cut, cut.

This has been going on for a few years. This year, 1.5 million for Criminal Court; last year, 2.2 million; 2010, 3 million.

Of the 9.8 million spent in 2011, less than 3 million came from the courts themselves. That isn’t a fantastic performance. 6 million went to salaries and benefits; 1.5 million ended up with professional services and contractors; all the rest is smaller charges like office supplies, law books, and postage. Around 800,000 went to trial expenses. Not sure what is going to become of Criminal Court, but for a secure New Orleans, the mayor better find $50 million or $100 million awfully quick, to help his cause in a big way. I say think way out of the box for big big ideas.

~ by neworleansmusicman on March 5, 2013.

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