Report finds positive change at Orleans Parish Criminal Court - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Report finds positive change at Orleans Parish Criminal Court

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A newly released report finds big changes are being made at Orleans Parish Criminal Court. But the system is far from perfect, as Court Watch NOLA found out.

Last year, 104 Court Watch NOLA volunteers sat in on 2,500 different hearings at Tulane and Broad.

Executive Director Brad Cousins says, "We think the citizens have the right and duty to know what's going on and let the rest of the city know about that."

What they found is that some things are improving at criminal court. "We noticed not only fewer delays but shorter delays in 2013 and that's important because there had been record delays in the two years before that," said Cousins.

The group found a big factor in the reduction of delays was the district attorney's decision to turn over misdemeanor cases to Municipal Court. There were also more guilty pleas last year meaning fewer trials and according to Brad Cousins, a determination on the court's part to make the system more efficient.

"This is a great sign, we hope this is the beginning of a long term improvement," said Cousins.

Despite Cousins optimism, the report found there are still issues with judges taking the bench on time. Court Watch NOLA compared the court subpoena start time and the time the judges actually showed up on the bench.

The biggest offender, Judge Frank Marullo, who in the first half of 2013, was, on average, 69 minutes late reporting to the bench.

Volunteers noted the late start times of judges in testimonials and one wrote of an un-named judge, "[The Judge] did not take the bench for over two and a half hours.... [so] some 30-40 people wasted over two and a half hours. many--including 4 NOPD officers--were public employees, whose idleness came at the expense of city taxpayers. Others were private citizens, many of whom had presumably taken time off from work. Again, no explanation (or apology) was forthcoming."

Cousins says in order for all of the inefficiencies at Tulane and Broad to be worked out, it'll take a joint effort by the court, judges and city government to consciously improve the system.

We reached out to the court's judicial administrator for comment on this story but he didn't get back to us.

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