NEW ORLEANS -- A government watchdog group has come out with new findings that reveal the local courts could be wasting millions of your tax dollars.
According to a formula the courts use to measure workload, New Orleans has more than twice as many judges as it needs.
The Bureau of Governmental Research used a formula that the research arm of the Louisiana Supreme Court developed to estimate judicial workloads.
The BGR report says that formula produced compelling evidence that the seven courts in Orleans Parish have way too many judges: 45 in all, when the Louisiana Judicial Council's formula indicates only 20 are needed.
"That's a 125 percent surplus," said Janet Howard, president of the BGR. "Pretty shocking."
Here's how it breaks down, according to these preliminary indicators:
- Civil court has 14 judges and only needs about seven.
- Criminal court has 13 judges and only needs about six
- Juvenile court has six judges and only needs one.
- Traffic court has four judges and only needs about one.
- First city court has three judges and only needs one.
- Second city court has one judge, who doesn't have much of a workload according to the formula.
Only municipal court, with four judges, has a workload for all its judges.
Howard said we're talking millions of dollars that could be saved.
"Every excess judge costs on the average $570,000, just for the judge, his or her personal staff on top of that, the expenses of housing people, central office costs," she said.
But Howard stresses what BGR has come up with are only preliminary numbers based on the Louisiana Judicial Council's workload formula.
"They're indicators," Howard said. "They're saying there's a problem here, and the judicial council needs to take final steps to reach a conclusion as to how many judges are actually needed."
Howard said the Louisiana Judicial Council needs to make site visits to the courts and get input from the judges, among other factors to finally conclude how many judges each court truly needs.
She said that has not been done in years.
Howard argues it's imperative to do it by February so the next legislative session can streamline the courts with the right number of judges.
"Otherwise 80 percent of the judges in Orleans Parish are up for reelection, and once they're elected, nothing can happen until 2020," Howard said.
If the Louisiana Judicial Council fails to do the work necessary conclude how many judges New Orleans actually needs, Howard said the public will be left with tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary expenses.