Backlogs in New Orleans' Criminal Courts

by TChris

The White House wants voters to believe that the president has played a significant role over the past year to help New Orleans rebuild. Despite all the president's speeches, disapproval of his response to Katrina remains high. As it should.

A year after Katrina, "only half of the New Orleans courthouse's 12 courtrooms have come back into service since judges returned to the flood-damaged building in June." Jail inmates are waiting for trials; many are waiting to meet their public defenders. And they've been waiting for a year. Judge Arthur Hunter is right to think that they shouldn't be kept waiting any longer.

Hunter says that especially given a shortage of public defenders, many indigent prisoners locked up even before the hurricane haven't talked to lawyers or been charged with crimes; he believes their rights have been being violated for too long and that therefore their releases warrant consideration on a case-by-case basis.

On a case by case basis, Judge Hunter will start deciding which inmates deserve to be released. Critics complain that he might release suspects who are guilty, but that's the price of living under a Constitution that demands proof of guilt as the prerequisite to prolonged incarceration. The critics should take their concerns to the president, who shouldn't be bragging about his commitment to helping New Orleans when the courts still aren't up to speed a year after Katrina did its damage.

"It's something the entire country should be concerned about," Hunter said. "If we're still part of the United States, and the Constitution still means something, why is the New Orleans criminal justice system still in shambles?"

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  • Re: Backlogs in New Orleans' Criminal Courts (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Aug 28, 2006 at 12:26:59 PM EST
    Time to, at least, release everyone facing minor misdemeanor or minor felonies. Without those cases it might be possible to determine if prosecutors have any evidence left in cases that remain.