Orleans criminal courts forced to go virtual, as sheriff pulls deputies for jail security

Published: Jun. 12, 2022 at 8:54 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson informed criminal justice stakeholders Sunday (June 12) that she was recalling deputies from courthouse duty early this week to restore security and order within the Orleans Justice Center jail, multiple law enforcement sources told Fox 8.

The move forces Criminal District Court judges to postpone trials and reschedule any hearings that cannot be held virtually, for at least the first three days of the week, according to sources familiar with the declaration.

Prosecutors within District Attorney Jason Williams’ office were warned that the physical court closure could potentially last two weeks. A statement released by Criminal District Court’s Chief Judge Robin Pittman after the news first was reported by Fox 8 also referenced a two-week absence of deputies.

“Criminal District Court was shocked by the news received this evening from Sheriff Susan Hutson that deputies would be removed from the courthouse, leaving the court with no security for approximately two weeks,” Judicial Administrator Rob Kazik wrote in the statement. “We are hoping for a quicker resolution to this matter.”

The sheriff’s office did not respond to Fox 8′s requests for comment, nor has it provided statements it distributed to other news outlets in the city acknowledging the deaths of two inmates over the weekend.

The court said that because of the lack of security in the deputies’ absence, the courthouse would be closed but would hold proceedings virtually “at least for Monday and Tuesday.”

More: ‘Out of control;’ Jury trials grind to a halt amid Orleans courthouse shutdown

Hutson, who unseated longtime Sheriff Marlin Gusman in a runoff election last December, has been steward of the parish jail for just six weeks.

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