NEW ORLEANS – The Clerk of New Orleans criminal court is suing the city for nearly $140,000 that was cut from his budget over the summer when the city mandated 3.8 percent cuts for most departments.
Arthur Morrell, the clerk of Criminal Court, said his office reached its breaking point when it ran out of paper. That happened in the middle of last week when City Hall rejected a routine request for more supplies.
"It came to a serious condition when I would not be able to perform the duties constitutionally I'm mandated to do,” he said. “Copying documents for various legal documents is mandatory for my office."
Morrell hopes an emergency request for paper will allow his office to continue processing documents for the court when it reopens Tuesday. But he said the next crisis could be right around the corner when his office has to start setting up for the November elections.
"I have to take some people away from other duties to go and help with the election, because that position hasn't been filled. And you still have positions that need to be filled for the in-court operations."
Morrell said four key jobs are unfilled right now because there's no money. In addition to filing the lawsuit, Morrell has alerted the higher courts that depend on his office for records.
"It's gotten to the point where my back is up against the wall,” he said. “I can't shift anyone around."
In his lawsuit, Morrell argues that because the duties of his office are mandated by the state, the city can’t withhold money from his budget.
In a written statement, the city responded that it will vigorously oppose the lawsuit.
At the same time, a city spokesman said, “We will also continue to work with the Clerk to effectively manage these budgetary challenges.”
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