Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Lagarde told the New Orleans City Council Criminal Justice Committee last week that judges were left out of the city's planning process for a new 40-bed Juvenile Justice Center. The building, which is under construction, will only have four courtrooms, even though state law designates six Juvenile Court judges for Orleans Parish.
When the city first began planning the center, "We were asked to participate to show that our needs would be met," Lagarde said. "But over the last several months, the administration has not come to us at all, and has made huge changes. We didn't know about the four courtrooms until two weeks ago."
Lagarde added that the judges were informed of the change one day before the ceremonial groundbreaking on Feb. 5. At that ceremony, Chief Juvenile Court Judge Ernestine Gray said the plan was an "intrusion" into the judicial branch.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, whose administration characterizes the court as bloated, plans to back legislation that would reduce the number of judges on the court to three. Landrieu points to several studies recommending a reduction, including a 2010 caseload analysis by the State Supreme Court's Judicial Council suggesting the city needed only one Juvenile Court judge.
— Charles Maldonado