Land Use
 

Financial separation of New Orleans’ civil, criminal courts must end

Since Charity Hospital was abandoned after Hurricane Katrina, it seems like everyone has come forward with a plan for the adaptive reuse of the Art Deco masterpiece. And yet eight years later it stands empty. Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants to put City Hall and Civil District Court in the building, though he hasn’t gotten the judges to agree. The Lens solicited the views of our readers and city leaders; over the next several days we are publishing edited versions of their ideas. Post your reactions in the comments below each story.

I find it fascinating that the Civil District Court judges discuss raising fees to support a new courthouse without mentioning the ancillary issue of how the courts are financed. We have to get at the core issue of how we fund our courts.

Clearly there is a need for a new facility; one close look at the current facility is enough to support the need. We can continue to debate where it should be located, but the financial separation of the two courts – civil and criminal – must end.

Because it continues, the City Council will include the criminal court in its 2014 budget, while civil court is left to fend for itself financially through fees. Keep in mind Criminal District Court is one of the only courts in Louisiana that is in a parish budget. Why? Because we still operate a financially separate justice system.

A unified system would eliminate the council’s need to include the criminal court as a budget item. Instead, both courts would be funded through civil filing fees and the criminal court’s self-generated funds.

Judge Calvin Johnson served 17 years on the Criminal District Court bench before retiring in 2008. He is executive director of the Metropolitan Human Services District and serves as chairman of The Lens’ board of directors.

Others weigh in on the future of Charity

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