Taetrece Harrison, an attorney in private practice, is challenging Judge Bernadette D’Souza in the race for domestic court judge in Orleans Civil District Court.
One of Harrison’s points of contention is how the court is run. She said there are too many continuances that drag out proceedings, costing litigants time and money.
She believes some continuances are valid, but the court should issue a warning that all motions for continuance in a case will be denied after a certain point. She does not believe in a one-size-fits-all limit, but said that judges should prevent attorneys from needlessly dragging things out.
Another way she said she would improve efficiency is by starting court promptly at 9 a.m. every day. Court doesn’t begin until 9:30 or 10, she said, wasting valuable hours every week.
Harrison criticized the court’s mediation program. Although mediation fees depend on a couple’s income, and some people don’t have to pay anything, Harrison said it’s an unfair burden on some people.
She also said she would institute court-ordered counseling. When parents come in with a bitter custody dispute, the issue is often not about the money or the child, but relationship issues that both people need to work through. If that isn’t addressed, the same people can end up in court over and over again.
“The focal point is getting people to resolve their issues,” Harrison said.
Regarding domestic violence cases, Harrison said it’s vital to thoroughly investigate the evidence before issuing protective orders. Though it’s important to protect people from physical abuse, she said, it’s also critical to ensure that the person seeking a protective order isn’t simply seeking revenge.
Again, Harrison emphasized the importance of court-mandated counseling. When relationships turn violent, both parties need counseling. Victims need help coping with emotional trauma and perpetrators need to work through the psychological issues that cause them to lash out.
Harrison also wants to provide broader government services in court, which she said is done in other states. In Massachusetts, there are “family justice centers” in the courthouse where families can access government services such as housing assistance, food stamps and workforce development. She wants to create such a program in New Orleans.
“It is making government work for people, making it more accessible to the people who need it the most,” she said.
Harrison has practiced in a variety of legal areas, including family law, foreclosures, and bankruptcies. She holds a Master in Laws degree in taxation law from the University of Alabama. That multi-disciplinary experience allows her to help people with other issues that come up during domestic cases, she said.
“You need many different areas of practice and understanding,” she said.