Cases stalled in section of criminal court due to funding dispute

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wwltv.com

Posted on July 10, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jul 10 at 2:43 PM

WWLTV.com
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NEW ORLEANS - There were fireworks in Criminal District Court over why the Clerk of Court’s Office told the media it was forced to shut down a section of the court.

The court said at a criminal justice court hearing that many positions are left unfilled through attrition or firing. This year 140 personnel are currently employed, but 155 were present last year.

A judge said the court is running on reserves that are running low since last year's 31 percent budget cut.

It was noted at the criminal justice court hearing that discretionary reserves for criminal court dropped from $2 million in 2010 to about $450,000 now.

The city council's Criminal Justice and Budget Committee met at 1 p.m. Wednesday to look at the budgets of the clerk of court's office and criminal court.

Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell said he fired a public relations official who altered a press release sent out Tuesday night.

Morrell was called to explain the situation before a frustrated judge on Wednesday.

Morrell said he does not have the authority to shut down a section of the court, and that only a judge can do so.

But while Section A remains open, some cases have stalled.

Morrell said the cases were on hold because the Mayor Mitch Landrieu administration cut his funding, and he can’t afford to replace two deputy clerks.

Morrell planned to speak to the New Orleans City Council at a budget hearing Wednesday afternoon about the funding issues.

He said it is against the law for the city to cut his budget, because his is a state office.

Others in the criminal justice system said Morrell cannot stall the justice system and he must do more with less.

"The court has a responsibility when those cases are presented to them to move them. To push the case through the system as quickly, as efficiently and with justice to the best of their ability," said Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Morrell said he will shuffle clerks in order to adequately staff Section A by Thursday.

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