A Sponsored Message from Judge Omar Mason

When I ran for Judge two years ago, I ran on a platform of ensuring that justice for all was a reality for all, and I have upheld that promise. I am proud of my record of efficiency and competency in presiding over legal matters of great consequence, from domestic abuse protective order hearings to complex community property partition trials. I am now moving from the Domestic docket to the Civil docket. Since being elected, I have run an open and fair courtroom and an efficient docket. I will bring that same work ethic and my continued and relentless commitment to justice and fairness to the Civil docket.

Viewpoint: An open letter to Mayor Cantrell: Only New Orleans can save New Orleans

Dear Mayor LaToya Cantrell:

Long gone are the days when the Louisiana Legislature is willing or even able to solve New Orleans’ financial problems, especially in the years of ever-tightening budgets and Republican dominance of the upper and lower chambers. Though we appreciate you asking state leaders for an extra share of available federal dollars, surely you knew in advance it was a futile attempt.  

Every city and town in Louisiana is hurting, especially those that have been hit once or even twice by storms this season. Legislators are elected to bring home the bacon. How could they explain to constituents that additional funding for New Orleans should be their priority?    

The very people that can save New Orleans from even greater economic disaster are the citizens of New Orleans – the business owners small and large who are desperate for customers; the Saints fans who want to watch the games from inside the Superdome; the music lovers who want to dance at Tips, the Maple Leaf or on Frenchmen Street; the foodies who want to linger inside their favorite bistros or savor chef Meg Bickford’s new Sunday brunch at Commander’s Palace.  

The ongoing regional and national media coverage detailing New Orleans still-strict COVID-19 restrictions has scared away many potential visitors. It has put a damper on conventions returning, on national developers’ willingness to invest in our city, and on the ability of too many citizens to eat, pay the rent and keep their utilities on.  

We’re proud of your role in ensuring that Louisiana is one of the few states that has handled COVID-19 effectively and that cases are not exploding in our city.

Sponsored: School Board Candidate Scorecard by Forward New Orleans

Voter Tool Shows Which Candidates Pledge to Support Platform for Excellence and Equity

Forward New Orleans for Public Schools (FNOPS) has released a scorecard showing which of the candidates for Orleans Parish School Board pledged to support the group’s platform ahead of the Nov. 3 election. FNOPS—a diverse coalition of more than 20 civic, business, and neighborhood organizations committed to increasing the number of quality public school options and ensuring equal access to quality education citywide—worked together to develop the platform, which is intended to guide School Board members in accomplishing these goals. In connection with the platform’s release in July, FNOPS interviewed candidates and sought a pledge from each to implement the platform’s action items. Both the platform and scorecard can be viewed at fnops.org. The platform establishes issues the coalition defines as most important to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for New Orleans public school students:

Racial equity evaluation, planning and training;
COVID-19 and emergency planning;
System-wide strategic planning and stakeholder engagement;
Expansion and replication of successful schools;
Ensuring all students have equitable access to resources;
School standards and accountability;
Resource management; and
Collaboration on best practices.

Viewpoint: Campaign finance reports provide bird’s-eye view of race

With the Nov. 3 elections just weeks away, the newly released campaign finance reports provide a long-awaited snapshot on how the various local races are unfolding. Several trends are evident.  

Money is tight in almost every race across the board, forcing most candidates to dip into their own pockets to keep going and also attract donors large and small from outside the region. With the exception of law firms and supporters of the new PAC for Justice, many members of the business community have been sitting these races out, perhaps not realizing how important they are to public safety and quality of life. Finally, a number of more progressive donors, their associated consultants and style of campaigning are bringing generational change to our politics.  

Going into the final few weeks, which judicial candidate reported the most cash on hand?

Viewpoint: Candidates meet the moment with redefined campaigns

Armed with push cards, customized face masks and signs, judicial candidate Rhonda Goode-Douglas spent Saturday morning greeting voters outside Congregation Coffee Roasters in Algiers. On Saturday afternoon, her opponent Derwyn Bunton posed with his wife Eileen and daughters Chloe and Reilly for photographs and video that will be used in social media. Both candidates would have attended the annual AFL-CIO Labor Day picnic in City Park today – always a highlight of the fall political season – had it not been canceled. 

While Labor Day signals the beginning of the final two-month stretch before the Nov. 3 elections, New Orleans candidates up and down the ballot are continually adjusting to the new normal of campaigning during COVID-19. 

“I came to this coffee shop because I wanted to meet the residents of Algiers Point,” said Goode-Douglas, a defense attorney who is running for Criminal District Court judge, Section E. “It’s difficult to spread our message and touch the community without being able to campaign door-to-door. We are dropping literature at people’s houses, but we are not ringing their bells.”  

“Trying to win an election during a pandemic requires extra creativity as well as a heavy reliance on technology and social media,” said Bunton, Orleans Parish’s chief public defender and also a candidate for Criminal District Court Section E. “The usual canvassing, meet-and-greets and handshaking can literally place you, your volunteers and potential voters in danger, so we are being respectful and following the science.” 

“Campaigns used to be about visiting people, but now they are all about content for social media,” said Ray Reggie, who has 36 years’ experience on political campaigns.

Viewpoint: Arthur Hunter positions himself as the people’s candidate for district attorney

Long before the honorific “criminal justice reformer” came in vogue, Arthur L. Hunter Jr. was earning a national reputation for identifying alternative solutions to incarceration aimed at decreasing recidivism. After four years as a New Orleans police officer, 12 years as a lawyer in private practice, and 23 years as the Section K Criminal District Court judge, Hunter decided the only way he could bring greater systemic change was to run for district attorney. “I am the clear choice for New Orleans voters who want a fair criminal justice system that truly addresses the needs of victims and defendants while creating programs that reduce crime,” Hunter said. A former St. Augustine High School football star, Hunter said he is running as “a candidate of the people, not a candidate of the bosses.”
Hunter, 61, said he earned the trust of the community during his stint as a police officer.

Viewpoint: Judge Laurie White, Dennis Moore duke it out in Criminal Court Section A race

Judge Laurie White admits she has always been a little feisty. “Even as a child I wanted to free the world,” she said. A former professional boxing manager who traveled internationally with her fighters, White will put her innate pugnaciousness to use in what could be a no-holds-barred competition against seasoned capital defense attorney Dennis Moore. A 61-year old Baton Rouge native, White graduated from LSU and Southern University Law Center and served as an assistant district attorney in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. While in private practice she handled civil rights and insurance matters and also tried more than 100 criminal defense cases as first chair and litigated almost 75 judge trials.

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: Proactive policing needed to combat surge in violent crime, MCC says

The Metropolitan Crime Commission (MCC), New Orleans’ premier criminal justice watchdog agency, is urging the New Orleans Police Department to refocus on violent offenders during a time when shootings and murders are surging and fewer arrests are being made for violent and weapons felony offenses. A new MCC analysis shows that there is currently a high community demand for police services. They recommend that the NOPD reinstitute a centralized task force model that allows police to strategically identify and target violent felons who continue to pose a threat to community safety. “Every violent crime that goes unresolved by arrest fuels the vigilante cycle of retaliatory justice, thereby diminishing public confidence in law enforcement,” said Rafael Goyeneche, MCC president. “The foundation for prosperity is built upon public safety.

Viewpoint: Before Kamala Harris, a very long battle for women in politics

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ selection as the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee — and potentially the most consequential vice president in American history — is the crowning glory of more than 150 years of incredible work by countless suffragists who first fought for the right to vote and later battled for unfettered access to the top echelons of U.S. government. Though Hillary Clinton, Geraldine Ferraro, Shirley Chisholm and others mightily aspired to reach the White House, polls currently show that the Biden-Harris team has more than a fighting chance to meet that goal. As America remembers the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which cracked open the doors for Harris and many others, there is no better way to celebrate than registering a friend or family member to vote. History tells us that the national women’s suffrage movement began in 1848 at the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, which was organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Mary Ann McClintock.   

The suffrage movement started a little later in Louisiana because of an antebellum-influenced view of the Southern lady, delicate as a magnolia blossom in the spring.  Southern males believed the women’s rights movement could only be attributed to an inferior Northern culture and likened it to abolitionism.  Equality of the sexes was a blatant disregard of social distinctions, according to author Armantine M. Smith writing in the Louisiana Law Review. In 1861 men began leaving home to fight in the Civil War, thereby compelling womenfolk to take the lead in caring for children and the elderly.