Viewpoint: Three candidates offer diverse experiences in Criminal Court Section K race

In the race to fill the open seat in Criminal District Court Section K, three lawyers are bringing their diverse background and outlook to the competition: attorney Stephanie Bridges, best known for her 24 years as president of the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice (NOCCJ); 36-year-old lawyer Marcus DeLarge, whose family has been active in city government for half a century; and 30-year practitioner Gary Wainwright, who describes his work as “citizen’s defense.” A fourth candidate, Diedre Pierce Kelly, was disqualified by the Louisiana Supreme Court. Stephanie Bridges

A distant relative by marriage to civil rights icons Ruby Bridges and the late Dr. Zebadee Bridges, nonprofit executive Stephanie Bridges has been an advocate for youth justice for more than 30 years. The NOCCJ, the human relations organization she leads, “promotes understanding and respect among all races, religions and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution and education.”
NOCCJ offers cultural diversity workshops and for almost 10 years provided free expungement clinics in conjunction with the Louis Martinet Society and the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana.  Some of the young people who participated in NOCCJ programs needed expungements to give them a fresh start. While lawyers from the partnering groups completed the technical aspects, Bridges learned the basics. Longtime NOCCJ partner and former Loyola University President Father James Carter dared Bridges to enter Loyola’s Law School program.

Viewpoint: Gusman says additional health care facilities could save lives at parish prison

Armed with the ruling yesterday (Aug. 5) by U.S. District  Judge Lance Africk, which returned control of the Orleans Justice Center to Sheriff Marlin Gusman, the sheriff said he is moving ahead with his push to build a new facility to house inmates with severe health and mental health needs and to repurpose Templeman V as a temporary facility for COVID-19 inmates. “I’m trying to save lives,” said Sheriff Marlin Gusman after Wednesday’s ruling, as he discussed plans for new or repurposed health facilities for prisoners. 

Court-appointed monitors reported in July that the OPSO was in partial or substantial compliance with the majority of federal reform provisions. Though Judge Africk returned control of the Orleans Justice Center to Gusman, the consent decree continues. 

On Wednesday, Gusman said his immediate concern is containing the spread of the coronavirus within the prison walls. “NOPD officers are bringing known COVID-19 positive patients to the Orleans Justice Center,” Gusman said.

Sponsored: Clerk Chelsey Richard Napoleon announces FREE subscriptions to the Remote Access system including civil records and land records

Clerk Chelsey Richard Napoleon announces FREE complimentary subscriptions to the Remote Access system, including civil records and land records. This will allow the public the flexibility of anytime, anywhere and anyplace access to information in both the Civil and Land Records divisions. Current subscribers will receive a complimentary extension. Members of the Louisiana Bar can electronically file (E-File) civil pleadings using the Remote Access system. Note that if you created an account previously, it has been reactivated at no cost.

Viewpoint: Criminals are in control because of NOPD officer shortages, Cannizzaro says

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Although he has yet to formally signal whether he will seek re-election in the fall of 2020,
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro gave a rousing address about New Orleans’ many crime problems and potential solutions to a packed crowd of Second Amendment supporters at the Home Defense Foundation’s meeting earlier this week. Attendees included New Orleans independent police monitor Susan Hutson. “We have a crime problem in the city of New Orleans,” said Cannizzaro who has worked in criminal justice for more than 40 years. “Since I first became an assistant district attorney in 1978, I’ve never seen crowds as were gathered at Hynes School in January and at the Jewish Community Center. People are upset.”

Cannizzaro told attendees that a significant part of the problem can be blamed on former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who set in motion the current police manpower shortage by failing to prioritize classes for new recruits during his first term.

Community meeting about the rise of crime in Uptown informative and contentious

By Sue Strachan, Uptown Messenger

Having your car broken into via smashed windows has become the new normal in New Orleans. On Tuesday, Jan. 14, a group of neighborhood associations hosted a community meeting at the Jewish Community Center to “discuss the recent uptick of crimes and ways to combat it,” stated a notice from the Faubourg Delachaise Neighborhood Association. The meeting, which was moved from a meeting room to the larger Donald Mintz Auditorium, attracted more than 100 fed-up and concerned citizens who wanted answers and solutions. What they came away with is that, particularly with juvenile crime, there is no single solution, and that any improvement is an evolving process including New Orleanians, the City Council, the NOPD, the Mayor’s Office, state legislature, and the local, state and federal judiciary.

Sewerage & Water Board liable for damage from SELA construction, judge rules

Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott ruled that the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board is legally responsible for the substantial damages caused to more than 350 Uptown homes and businesses as a result of construction of the massive SELA drainage project. The court on Monday, Jan. 6, granted the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment, finding the city agency the sole responsible party for claims of inverse condemnation, custodial liability and timber pile-driving claims.

According to plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Whitaker, all that is left now is for each claimant to prove the extent of the damage to their property. The ruling means claimants who provide evidence of damage will have their claims more swiftly decided and judgment entered in their favor. Trial on the next 20 claims is set for Tuesday, Jan.

Sister Helen Prejean commemorates 10 years without any executions in Louisiana (video)

Sister Helen Prejean, author of “Dead Man Walking,” commemorated 10 years without any executions in Louisiana — the longest such period in the state’s history — at a “Vigil for Life” ceremony in New Orleans on Jan. 7. Louisiana has executed 28 individuals since 1976. The 28th was Gerald Bordelon, 47, a Livingston Parish man sentenced to death for the murder of Courtney LeBlanc, his 12-year-old stepdaughter. He was pronounced dead from lethal injection at 6:32 p.m. on Jan.

Couple charged in Leonidas rape case in custody

From the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office

A New Orleans man and woman indicted last month on charges that they raped another woman inside a Leonidas neighborhood home in January 2019 surrendered to authorities in court this week and have been remanded into custody, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s Office announced Friday. Edward “Eddie” Budd, 39, and Echo Hurlburt, 26, appeared for arraignment before Criminal District Judge Laurie A. White. Each entered a plea of not guilty to a single count of first-degree rape, charges that were handed up Oct. 24 by an Orleans Parish grand jury. White ordered both defendants remanded into custody at the Orleans Justice Center jail.

Danae Columbus: Court Watch NOLA celebrates 11 years of citizen advocacy

The volunteers at Court Watch NOLA are a well-oiled data collection machine that have made a significant impact on the operations of the Orleans Parish criminal court system for more than a decade. “We are a basic exercise in democracy,” said director Simone Levine. Through the information skilled volunteers collect, the agency publishes reports “that spur dialogue and bring much needed transparency and accountability to the courts.”

Founded after Hurricane Katrina by the New Orleans Business Council and other forward-thinking organizations, Court Watch NOLA seeks to shorten the gulf between “insiders” and “outsiders,” Levine explained.  Outsiders are the crime victims, witnesses, defendants and jurors. Insiders are the public officials who run the system, including the judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, police officers and Sheriff’s Office officials. “Court Watch NOLA teaches outsiders the language of court so that outsiders can bring accountability and help to solve some of the problems that insiders have so regularly lived with that they often no longer see as problematic,” Levine said.

Man charged with murder in his father’s death

A man was charged in the shooting death of his father inside his grandmother’s Leonidas home, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office announced Thursday. Carldell Paul, also known as Carldell Daniels, was charged with the second-degree murder of 50-year-old Carl Daniels and with obstructing justice in a homicide investigation in the two-count indictment handed up by an Orleans Parish grand jury. Paul, 31, faces a mandatory lifetime prison sentence if convicted of the murder, and up to 40 years if found guilty of the obstruction count. The victim’s mother called New Orleans police at 9:19 p.m. on July 10 to report the killing inside a bedroom of her home in the 1200 block of Eagle Street. She told investigators that her son and grandson had been arguing about money, and that she suddenly heard gunshots in the victim’s room.