Criminal Justice
 

Yolanda King says she would streamline Juvenile Court docket, seek alternatives to youth detention

Yolanda King has been a judge for almost a year and a half, and for the past six months, she’s been suspended from the bench because of criminal charges against her.

But she is still the incumbent, and that’s what she emphasizes as she runs for re-election.

“I have the ability to effectively manage and proceed as a judge, and none of my opponents have that experience,” King said.

After four unsuccessful attempts, King finally was elected judge in May 2013. She’s serving out the term of Tracey Flemings-Davillier, who moved to criminal court.

But shortly after King was elected, an opponent raised questions about her residence. On her 2013 qualifying papers, King had listed a New Orleans address. But she had a homestead exemption on a house she owns in Slidell — which had been in place since 2007.

She was indicted in March on two felony counts for falsifying a public record. She was later suspended from the bench until the case is resolved.

King has said the homestead exemption was on the Slidell property by mistake. She said that her sister lived in Slidell, and that she actually lives in eastern New Orleans.

King told The Lens she couldn’t discuss the charges against her.

She would, however, discuss what she said has been a productive year on the bench. She said she’s established herself as “a hard-working and knowledgeable judge” who has worked to combat truancy and other issues that contribute to unnecessary prosecution in juvenile court.

“Basically, I will continue the progress we’ve begun. We’ve streamlined the docket of Section E by using best practices. And we will continue to work towards developing programs for alternatives to detention,” King said in a phone interview with The Lens.

She added that if she were re-elected, she would seek more funding to create a gun court and to expand mental health court and early intervention programs.

She also said she’d work to create a task force of attorneys, social workers, community leaders and other stakeholders in Louisiana’s juvenile justice system.

“We are in a crisis with crime here in the city,” King said. “We have to do something to reduce that and eventually eliminate that.”

King came close to not having a seat to run for at all.

In August, the state Legislature passed a new law to eliminate two juvenile judge seats. The judgeships would become vacant by “death, resignation, retirement [or] disqualification from exercising any judicial function pursuant to order of the Louisiana Supreme Court,” according to the law.

The last provision seemed to target King’s seat, as it was added after she was indicted. But even after the law passed, opinions differed on whether her position still existed.

Secretary of State Tom Schedler refused to take King’s seat off the ballot because she has only been suspended and hasn’t been convicted of a crime. Mayor Mitch Landrieu sued to prevent Schedler from adding King’s seat to the ballot, but he lost.

The mayor has been trying to downsize Juvenile Court after the Bureau of Governmental Research reported that the city would save nearly $1 million a year by eliminating two Juvenile Court judgeships.

King said politics shouldn’t have any place in her race. “I have the independence to continue to serve fairly with integrity outside of politics,” King said.

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