NEW ORLEANS - Following the all-time record trial delays that volunteers observed in 2011, the rate of delays remained at a record high in Criminal District Court for 2012, according to the Court Watch NOLA 2012 report that was released just after midnight on Wednesday.
The report stressed that even though the court dealt with nearly 3,000 fewer cases in 2012 than it did in 2011, delays were still a very serious problem
Volunteers with Court Watch NOLA said that 2/3 of the time they went to a scheduled hearing at Orleans Parish Criminal Court, it was delayed.
The report cited several different reasons that cases are delayed.
The most common reason for delaying a hearing was that the defense attorney was not present when a client's case was called, according to the report.
Another common issue for hold ups was due to a defendant in custody not being brought to court for the hearing. This is because the attorney did not file a transport request or the sheriff's office failed to bring the individual to court.
In some cases, there was already a trial happening in a courtroom.
The list went on, and other reasons included a defendant that was released on bond not returning to court, an officer not being available to serve as a witness or the state not providing the defense with discovery info, such as a police report, in a timely matter.
The final reason for delays was that the hearing was simply scheduled in error.
Court Watch NOLA ultimately points the finger at the court's 12 judges, stating that it's up to them to stop this culture of continuance since they are the ones who must grant the continuance motions.
Volunteers found that courtrooms are often closed without public notice, even when there is a full docket.
Court Watch NOLA encouraged judges to expect more from attorneys in court.
The report also explained that transparency is a problem. Although the public has the right to attend and watch court, business is often conducted at a sidebar or in chambers, which is off the record and out of public hearing.
The group wants subpoenas to better reflect when court actually starts. The report showed that some judges don't take the bench until nearly 50 minutes after the subpoena start time, leaving everyone involved in the case waiting around.
However, the report explained that delays are much less common with more serious cases like first degree murder, which shows the court is prioritizing violent and serious cases toward closure.