Court watchdog report: Culture of continuances plagues Orleans C - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Court watchdog report: Culture of continuances plagues Orleans Criminal Dist. Court

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Orleans Parish Criminal Court/FILE (FOX 8) Orleans Parish Criminal Court/FILE (FOX 8)

New Orleans - A New Orleans court watchdog group releases its 2012 assessment of Orleans Criminal District Court, and finds a record high number of delays on cases. Court Watch NOLA's observations suggest a "culture of continuances" exist.

The group says its volunteers are in criminal district court every day of the week. When a volunteer went to observe a scheduled hearing last year, it was continued or delayed almost two-thirds of the time.

Court Watch NOLA's report suggests that continuances are allowed by many of the judges. It also points out there are problems producing defendants who are not in custody.

The number one reason for continuances according to Court Watch NOLA is defense attorneys themselves were not in the courtroom when their cases were called.  

Meantime, the report shows that the percentage of continuances or delays requested by state dropped slightly last year.

These are just a couple of observations volunteers marked down in 2012.

On one occasion, the volunteer noted, "the judge was tired of being rescheduled and wanted to set the trial date for the next day." The volunteer went on to say, "no one was ready and they told the judge that, but he set the date for tomorrow anyway."

The volunteer says the prosecutor told the victim's family not to worry about coming to court the next day because it wouldn't go to trial then either.

As far as professionalism goes, one volunteer noted, "when a defendant told the judge that he had already paid his attorney, who then died, she asked if he wanted her to dig up the attorney, and told the man there was nothing she could do for him."

There are several areas that this report sheds light on, from timeliness at criminal court to transparency and sentencing.

You can see the full report by clicking here.

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