Performance of the District Courts

Fiscal Year 2014 - 2015

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INTRODUCTION


The Louisiana District Judges Association adopted the initial Strategic Plan of the District Courts in November 1999. The Supreme Court approved the plan the same year. The plan was revised and updated in 2005, 2010, and 2015. The goals and objectives of the Strategic Plan of the District Courts reflect the Performance Standards of the District Courts, which have been adopted by the Louisiana Supreme Court. The information comprising the “Intent of the Objective” sections of this report was taken primarily from the Bureau of Justice Assistance publication entitled “Trial Court Performance Standards with Commentary.” The information presented in the “Response to the Objective” and “Major Strategies Initiated or Completed” sections of this part of the report was compiled from responses of each district court to a survey of chief judges, which was prepared by the Supreme Court Judicial Administrator’s office and distributed to the district courts.


SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS BY THE COURTS DURING THE PERIOD


GOALS AND OBJECTIVES




GOAL 3: TO PROVIDE DUE PROCESS AND EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAW TO ALL WHO HAVE BUSINESS BEFORE THE COURT; AND TO DEMONSTRATE INTEGRITY IN ALL PROCEDURES AND DECISIONS

3.1 To faithfully adhere to laws, procedural rules, and established policies.

3.2 To ensure that the jury venire is representative of the jurisdiction from which it is drawn.

3.3 To give individual attention to cases, deciding them without undue disparity among like cases and upon legally relevant factors.

3.4 To ensure that the decisions of the court address clearly the issues presented to it and, where appropriate, specify how compliance can be achieved.

3.5 To ensure that appropriate responsibility is taken for the enforcement of court orders.

3.6 To ensure that all court records of relevant court decisions and actions are accurate and preserved properly.




SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS BY THE COURTS

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1st JDC

The court maintained its budget in a time of financial crisis.

3rd JDC

Beginning immediately upon the election of a new Division B judge and a new district attorney, the court began a series of informational meetings to ease the transition with the newly-elected officials. Because of the pro-active initiative, the justice system experienced no delays or inconveniences during the time of transition.

4th JDC

In March 2015, the court hired, as court administrator, a judge who had recently retired from the court. This increased court efficiency because the administrator knows how the court operates and knows the heads of agencies who partner with the court. The administrator also received a Supernumerary Pro Tempore appointment from the Supreme Court, which allows him to sit for any one of the 11 judges of the court when a judge cannot sit. He has done so, often on very short notice. The court also continued to work with justice partner members to develop a better case management system, to move and process cases more efficiently.

5th JDC

The 5th JDC continued and enhanced its juvenile and adult drug court programs.

6th JDC

The court substantially improved security for those attending court in East Carroll and Tensas parishes by installing security cameras in courtrooms, in the judges' chambers in Lake Providence, in the judge's office in St. Joseph, and at the security door in the East Carroll judges' chambers. In Madison Parish, alternate engineering plans were developed to segregate inmates from victims and their families and from court personnel during arraignment and motion days. Funding for these improvements was secured and construction should be completed in 2016.

7th JDC

The 7th JDC developed and implemented a standardized sentencing schedule for time to serve, fines to be paid, probation periods, and fees for misdemeanors in both divisions of court.

8th JDC

The court closely monitored payment of fines, court costs, and restitution.

9th JDC

The 9th JDC formed a Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. The committee includes all stakeholders that touch the criminal justice system.

10th JDC

The court worked to facilitate expedited trials and to make the judicial system more accessible.

11th JDC

The court prepared a two-hour presentation to advise law enforcement of changes and updates in the law. Law enforcement in other parishes expressed an interest in this presentation and invited the court to present the information to parish law enforcement officers.

The court prepared a Power Point presentation on how the law affects juveniles, and, for the last two years, has presented this information to the junior classes (11th graders) in all of the schools in Sabine Parish. The presentation was so successful that the superintendent of the school board, as well as numerous teachers, have requested the written version of the presentation. The presentation focuses on the consequences of certain actions - what the legal impact would be now and what the possible impact would be as an adult.

The 11th JDC does not have a drug court. Instead, the court handles each case individually. The court has ensured that drug rehabilitation and mental health services have been available to those who suffer from drug addiction and/or mental illness. Although it is at times quite challenging to find services for the treatment of mental illness (considering that the Many Behavioral Health Clinic is not accepting any new patients), the court strove to ensure that treatment is available when required.

12th JDC

The 12th JDC implemented a new, written personnel policy for all court personnel.

13th JDC

The court upgraded its computer equipment, created a website, and installed accounting software.

14th JDC

The appointment of a 14th JDC criminal commissioner freed up court time for the 14th JDC to begin a major initiative. The court will conduct up to three (and in some cases more) pretrial/case management conferences in each division, to more quickly process felony cases. The court should see the results of this effort in the coming months.

The court also added a courtroom at the parish jail, to enhance attorney access to imprisoned defendants and to eliminate/reduce transportation costs to the Sheriff's office. The jail courtroom will reduce safety concerns related to excessive transport to and from the jail.

The court enhanced the Pretrial Supervision Program. Program assets include oversight without incarceration, lighter sentences/probation commensurate with success in program, and direction and proactive assistance to those charged.

15th JDC

Lafayette Parish has a vibrant Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC). Through this committee, the court implemented procedures which have increased collections of fines and court costs; increased court appearances through a telephone reminder system; reduced delays in arraignment and trial of defendants held in jail; and set up a committee of varied partners in the community to work on the issue of the mentally ill within the criminal justice system.

16th JDC

During the reporting period, Judge Lori A. Landry and a team of justice partners from the offices of the District Attorney and the Public Defender and the Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole, participated in the Justice Leader Symposium. The symposium was sponsored by the National Judicial College and the Center for Health and Justice.

The Justice Leader Symposium is a component of the White House National Drug Control Strategy. It combines education and systems change to achieve systematic solutions to improve public safety, cost savings, and lives restored, for those involved in the criminal justice system and suffering from substance use disorder. This training will be extended to other justice partners in the Sixteenth Judicial District in the near future, as the court continues to improve on the administration of justice through emerging science and to further serve the community.

17th JDC

Implementing and maintaining aiSmartBench judicial case processing dashboard technology was the major accomplishment of the 17th JDC. As the first Louisiana court to utilize it, the court has tried to encourage as many other courts as possible to adopt this cutting-edge, invaluable technology. A secondary accomplishment was the implementation and utilization of the courthouse security camera/DVR system.

18th JDC

All three parishes of the 18th JDC, particularly Pointe Coupee Parish, improved courtroom/courthouse security. The court met with the sheriff and police jury to develop and implement the several-stage security check now in place.

19th JDC

In the spring of 2015, the court benefited from the services of a consultant from the National Center for State Courts. His goal was to help the court improve its governance. He interviewed judges and the court administrator and wrote a lengthy report containing many recommendations. The judges worked diligently, in special meetings, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its governance. Certain changes were made, and others are still being considered. This is a story that is not completely "told" at this point, but it was a major step for the judges to devote so much attention and effort into trying to improve the present governance system.

20th JDC

The 20th JDC established general guidelines for setting bail bonds, including a procedure to ensure prompt review of cases involving misdemeanor defendants financially unable to post bond. The court also established general guidelines to ensure procedural consistency between divisions.

21st JDC

The 21st JDC recently designed a new court website that will facilitate inter-office communication during emergencies.

22nd JDC

The court has continued to seek out interagency partnerships to facilitate accessible systems of justice, e.g. specialty courts, community outreach/education, and equality for the disadvantaged.

23rd JDC

The 23rd JDC updated the court website to allow the public to easily navigate the judicial system.

24th JDC

The 24th JDC started the Veterans Treatment Court in 2014-2015.

25th JDC

The 25th JDC developed and implemented a self-represented litigant website, in conjunction with the Louisiana State Bar Association, to assist litigants who may choose to represent themselves.

26th JDC

The 26th JDC continued a four-year process of building and implementing its new case management system. The new case management system, to be completed in December of 2015, will allow the judges to manage both criminal and civil cases in a more timely and efficient manner. The system will ultimately assist all departments in accurately depicting the status of cases in each division and in reporting status information to the Louisiana Supreme Court or other entities to which the court may apply for funding or grant approval.

27th JDC

The court recently installed new digital and video equipment in the majority of the courtrooms. The court plans to install the equipment in the remaining courtrooms by the end of 2015.

29th JDC

In September of 2014, the court received funding approval from the Supreme Court Drug Court Office to implement a juvenile drug court program. The juvenile drug court has been in full operation since December of 2014.

30th JDC

In cooperation with the school board, the 30th JDC implemented a truancy court.

31st JDC

The court reviewed court safety procedures with local law enforcement.

32nd JDC

The 32nd JDC continued to support DWI/Drug Court programs in the district and hopes to initiate new courthouse security procedures in 2016.

33rd JDC

The court combined its efficient docket management with continued ease of access to court.

34th JDC

The 34th JDC implemented an initiative to meet regularly with the Clerk of Court, District Attorney, and the Sheriff to communicate, coordinate, and cooperate on all matters relating to judicial resource needs and to address any issues relative to the court system.

36th JDC

The 36th JDC addressed challenges related to the docketing and efficiency in handling juvenile cases. This is a challenge for the general-jurisdiction court, but it continued to work on this area of its jurisdiction.

37th JDC

The 37th JDC worked to obtain assistance for self-represented litigants.

38th JDC

The 38th JDC implemented a self-help website, which provides forms and important information about self-representation to self-represented litigants This website is sponsored by the Louisiana State Bar Association.

40th JDC

With the help and input of the court, the parish added a "Juvenile Wing" to the existing courthouse. The wing includes a waiting or reception area for juveniles and families, where they remain separate from the rest of the courthouse. The wing also contains private offices for each juvenile officer and FINS coordinator and a conference room for general use, including truancy panel meetings. When wing is not being used for juvenile purposes, the space is used for lawyer-client meetings. Space for these meetings was not available prior to the new wing addition.

The court also worked to find funding for an intake/receptionist. The receptionist will assist the FINS coordinator and juvenile probation officers, so that they may devote more time to field work.

42nd JDC

The court employed a hearing officer to hear and expedite case management for criminal neglect of family cases and to make recommendations for child in need of care case reviews.

Caddo Parish Juvenile Court

The court partnered with Goodwill Industries to secure the services of an employment counselor. The counselor will assist men and women who attend child support court to find employment, allowing them to financially provide for their children.

East Baton Rouge Family Court

The court conducted an annual Professional Development Day to enhance professionalism at the court.

East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court

The court instituted its First Annual Professional Development Day. All employees participated in stress management training as well as the annually-required, one-hour mandatory ethics training on the Code of Governmental Ethics for public servants. Following lunch, all employees viewed the movie, "Kids for Cash." The movie heightened employee awareness and sensitivity to the critical nature of matters handled by the court.

Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court

Juvenile justice reform is an issue that continues to be of importance across the country. The Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court has for years been on the forefront of this issue in Louisiana. This past year, the court maintained the ongoing relationship with Annie E. Casey Foundation to concentrate on the Detention Assessment Instrument (DAI). The court uses this instrument to determine which juvenile may be released early from detention after initial arrest. The instrument prevents juveniles who have possibly committed lesser violations from being held in the same facilities as those who may have committed more serious crimes, including crimes of violence. Studies have shown that keeping lesser-risk juveniles out of detention facilities, and away from juveniles who have committed more serious crimes, diminishes the likelihood that the lesser-risk juveniles will reoffend or escalate their criminal behavior.

Orleans Parish Civil District Court

The court continued its plan to become completely digital by January 1, 2016.

Orleans Parish Criminal District Court

Orleans Parish Criminal Court reported that its specialty courts and the New Orleans Adult Learning Center were successful in assisting the participants to meet their program and graduation goals. The specialty courts enhanced services to address co-occurring mental health and substance abuse disorders.

The re-entry court judges were recognized by the American Bar Association as 2015 Legal Rebels. Also, the Metropolitan Crime Commission, based on 2014 data, reported that the court's “felony case processing time nearing national rate.”

The court upgraded portions of its case management system to greatly improve its ability to report data. The Louisiana Supreme Court provided funding to upgrade a portion of the case management system, allowing Criminal District Court to report dispositions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The court also exceeded reporting in all categories, as a result of upgrades to its case management and data exchange systems, and improved in reporting mental health dispositions.

Orleans Parish Juvenile Court

Orleans Parish Juvenile Court is very proud of its efforts and strategy to move toward paperless operation. The court instituted both electronic filing and scanning of all documents filed into the court. These changes increased productivity and efficiency.


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