If you or a family member experienced the New Orleans judicial system, how would you grade it?

Newell Normand
Friday, October 20th
If you or a family member experienced the New Orleans judicial system, how would you grade it?  Court Watch NOLA released their report on The State of the Magistrate Court-in particular setting bail, pre-trial supervision, and the appointment of Magistrate Court Commissioners

This Hours guest:
Simone Levine - Executive Director, Court Watch NOLA
Veronica Bard - Project Director, Court Watch NOLA

Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

Good morning New Orleans and what a great morning it is a looks like we might get a little rain this weekend but for now we'll take this beautiful weather that we have today gone into this evening and there's so many exciting things that are going on. Throughout the city. But first on a more somber and no visitation will be this evening DW Rhodes funeral home. From 530 to 730. Four officer McNeal. Marcus McNeill and there's a benefit fund set up for him that you can make donations and any Whitney bank branch he. Leaves a wife and two very very young children. And the services will be and how shall faith church and only 300 attends service true on Saturday October 1. Visitation from eight to 10 AM and then services will be. Immediately following with interment that will take place in mono that cemetery at 4000 Norman Meier. Avenue for those who view that want to participate. Please do so by making a donation chew it over at Whitney that's helping facilitate that in thanks to them. And we know that the NO PD family and in particular the law enforcement family in the first responder family. Really appreciate the concern that every one halves for the McNeil family. So with that in a the last hour no filter fraud. We wanna hear from you we wanna hear about it you're are you kidding me moments for the entire week of the week before 'cause we actually did not have it last week. But we want to we want you to bring down on we wanna talk about what things happen that tests were completely mystifying to you. In a second hour we're gonna talk to Zach Butterworth with the city attorney's office about this. Total war that seems to be gone on between the the attorney general and now on number of cities as it relates to the definition surrounding Sanctuary Cities and what that actually means. That it seems to be used say tomato I say to motto. And we're not sure exactly where this is all gonna fallout and we'll hear from Zach Butterworth and what his thoughts are and in that process. And in this hour joining me in this studio. Two very important folks have play a very important role. As. They are the executive director Simone Levine from court watch Nolan. As well as Veronica Bart who's the project or actor of court watch no luck thank you know and they just. Issue today all encompassing. 48 page report. Outlining a lot around. The bond or bail practices. Working through the magistrate court system. Which is Connor where the first initial appearance not kind of it actually is where the initial first appearances for criminal defendants. And starts on the path. Adjudicating these cases in the end it's very important first step so what you first tell us about court watch know what you do and and what ledger all to this report that yell issued just this past week. Thanks Sarah we really appreciate being done so. I like snow's been around for ten years we've first came intent creation event after. Katrina when we learn. Really it's the Canada math consent to call it. And specifically what we as we 150 volunteers community members citizens of New Orleans and we go into the courts and we monitor what is happening inside the courts. We collect data we make sure that judges acting appropriately. Public defenders acting appropriately. Police acting appropriately. Prosecutors acting appropriately and cooling. And become like that that and then with that data that data from citizens of New Orleans we create these reports including that fifty page report that the Fannie Mae and. So what led you to decide that. The magistrate court was going to be your next project I know you all had looked at them before it's our call in and made some observations and was this a follow up to that and what led jolting. Issued this report. So we've been in magistrate court now for a little over a year. And what simply made us look into it was people have been half past three years to look at magistrate court. People that we're concerned about sales practices a magistrate court and we had wanted to do it and then we got a larger grant. To be able to extend into magistrate court and and then we just started and we we really think that we finally made quite an impact and like you said it is the first the first moment that's that a defendant has first. Feel moment that a victim has in court as well. And looking at the proceedings and first time for felony defendants. That's more serious crimes but also your state misdemeanors now art and magistrate courts hear more minor crimes here we're Minnesota misdemeanors go to a different court. We're watching that court as well but this report specifically is about those more serious cases. When I first started in the sheriff's office and Orleans parish in 1977. We worked overtime in magistrate court at nights and on weekends so. I worked a lot in that particular court and on notice that the first recommendation dealt with. How do you get to be a commissioner. Tank in the court meant at that time there the head. Magistrate was elected as our call assets still OK still the case. And then you you have how many commissioners that work under that elected judge. CM four commissioners who they actually work under the direction of the judges for the criminal district court judge manages them the magistrate worked alongside them because top management and. So how do you become a commissioner and I think that's the first recommendation yell medic in your report. That's bank so it specifically commissioners make 70000 dollars with a part time positions are allowed to keep practicing non. And it's judges come together all the felony court judges and magistrate come together and they make the decision on his going to be commissioner there are no moves. And place at all there's a one ruled that's put into place and Louisiana mom which is that the judges just come together and make that decision at the close to a decision. And our recommendations specifically. Relates to fact that they should be some kind of written policy and specifically some kind of conflict of interest policy. Involved in the past us and our toll of the reason why. Yes so. How do you say you know there's not even an. And advertising. Of an opening anybody's interest. Submit your name choose somebody or anything else. So basically weigh in abacus which is posted throughout the court the court itself. What it says is if you are interested to submit your resume to human resources and that is about it and in Orleans parish what happens is there's a few more iron requirements. The judges and if this is to their credit the judges. How about it more requirements for the commissioners themselves but they haven't added those requirements to themselves and making the decision. And who should be a commissioner. And the reason why that's important is because remember judges are all elected our criminal district courts. Our criminal just a quick judges are all elected 150000. Others usually. And I get to become. Be an elected criminal district court judge that's amount of money you have to raise. And so who are they getting these campaign contributions from there coming from private defense attorneys many of them. Bail Bondsman many of them and those are the same people that come in front of these judges as well so here's the commissioner appointment process. And it's where are very concerned that it's that conflict of interest those people that are giving campaign contributions. That that might affect who becomes a commissioner. And so that's the reason why we have asked that they have they include some kind of conflict of interest rules. But some kind of conflict of interest rules into place to make sure that those people that have connections to gut applicants. Those commissioner applicants. That they recuse themselves they just don't get involved in that decision at all if there's a campaign contribution that's connected. Other. They have the judge's review this and is there any reaction to this report that's only from the court. That's a great questions have so yes there has so we actually went from judge to judge and criminal district court to speak to them we give them this recommendation. And a week or so before the report two weeks before the report came out and many of them were very supportive. Which is really took credit to them that they are supportive. We left it in their hands obviously but we also let the policy in the hands they said this is what other jurisdictions are doing across the country. We love you look at what the other jurisdictions they do an across the country and then you come up with your own rules and too many of them are supportive. Sums that they were not opposed that they would look into it and so we have we have some confidence that this might happen. And it's something that they should actually be concerned because as our call. In the administration of justice they have absolute immunity. But in the ministerial stuff that they do day in and day out in managing. The courtroom the court house and things of that nature that they go so they've there that there are some potential liabilities. If they don't set up a process by which to judge potential candidates for this all important position might have solution has saint. Yeah so I mean I I can see and I but I also see that they would embraces. You know sometimes you're so busy do another thing regional community not you know thinking about all of these things so there. There's a lot of value us as it relates to that particular observation and we've. And the judges who we spoke to many of them have talked to us about how their content as well about it. Well great we'll continue this conversation when we come back and talking about some of the other observations that have been made by court watch know on this all important. Judicial system in the effectiveness and efficiency of that system so stay with us this is Noual Mormon on debuted ago. We're back and we're talking is Simone Levine and Veronica barred from court watching Nolan in but more importantly we're talking about magistrate court which is the initial contact the criminal defendants have with the court system and we're just talking about. How commissioners or are picked in the recommendations that you made that there should be more of a significant outlawing. Relative to do policies and procedures in how these individuals pick and recommendation number two. Very very important because it has become. The source of a lot of litigation around the country as to what bail actually means and the Supreme Court has stated that the function of bail is limited to the fixing the bill for any individual defendant must be based upon standard relevant to the purpose of assuring. The presence of that defendant. And with as many criminal defendants as we have come and into the system and orange or some parish we've been. In. Overcrowding conditions for a long time we continue to make overcrowded. Releases. And it's a delicate balance between the setting of that pale and and the capacity that you have in the jail so you have to go about it in a very deliberate. Way. In in determining that that operationally. Makes sense in making sure that the umbrella of the constitutional protections. Are preserved as well. At tape and it's you know we had mentioned before are known that. When we were looking to Jefferson Parish Jefferson Parish has had their own pretrial services program in place now for decades and it's sport. And the reason why we think it's compelling as because we do have to make evidence based decisions when it comes to who to release. And hit them incarcerated because let's face that there are some people that really shouldn't be released and we need to know which ones they now. And we need to know which ones they are not. And what we found the report was that in fact there's three times the amount of low risk defendants than there is high risk to kind of someone I think risk. I'm talking about risk of getting re arrested so that's public safety whether it can be hurting us when they're released. Or the risk of returning back to court and so we found three times the amount of low risk defendants. And increasingly we feel that we are moving and joy and the right direction we do have a program can place in New Orleans. Where pretrial low risk factors are being embraced increasingly weary seeing that at some outlying years. And we can talk about them a little later but increasingly we're seeing it happen so that constitutional practice you're talking about where. You do not set a blanket amount of say 2500 dollars for every single defendant that walks into your court. We're increasingly seeing that improve for its increasingly seeing the judge look at individuals individually and see. And they can be a risk to public safety and they can appear risk of returning to. Are you guys are opposed to schedule bonds where they have a schedule bond chief that if this is your first offense and you're arrested for these enumerated offense as your bond is jacks so that you can. It actually allows those folks to get out of jail quicker because I don't have to wait till the next day or wait till that evening. To get before a magistrate. I mean in those cases and it just kind of moves the system. Clearer. So we aren't we actually don't have that in Orleans parish and we we encourage. Folks to actually look at the defendant individually instead of just by the crime itself because what we found in the studies found is that. If you look at the defendant just for the crime that the individual has supposedly. But involved and that you end up releasing people that may be more dangerous than what you think and then also keeping people in jail. Who are not as dangerous as you think the you have to take all the factors into consideration. And it's a slippery slope for judges because it can be very volatile I mean it if view or I could predict human behavior. Her you wouldn't be sitting there and I wouldn't be sitting here talking today that's thing that we are beyond talking and speaking tours around the world I'd say you know work and our magic and then. You know a lot of times we lose sight of that enemy where we're really taking best guess estimates. What we think these the proclivity of these individuals are as a relayed to him there a solution of risk. And you know it's. For me it was always about selective incapacitate shouldn't meaning. You know looking at the impact crow little understanding their criminal. History that's been as an indicator of future human behavior and their noncompliance. Two previous court orders if they didn't show up in previous cases to me that was always a pretty damn good main indicator of what was gonna happen in a few at ground that's intent. You know I like to talk about a little bit. Didn't so up got to take our break we're gonna CBS news and we'll let you talk. At this point in time right after we get back this is new rule Norman under every WL. We're back we're talking to Simone Levine and Veronica hardware is court watched Nolan and a report that they've issued on the magistrate court in. Criminal district court New Orleans and when we left off we were talking about. The constitutional standard of bale and and the policies surrounding. What. Type of bail of the amount of bail would be given to criminal defendants that come before the court and I think he'll have a pilot project the general working on and so when we talk about that four. Well detection not our pilot project to this city New Orleans current project and I think that. Really what our report does is. Is highlight the importance of that individualized to set decision. On whether a particular defendant. Will return to court on time. Order would be the likelihood of being re arrest while out on bail. And this pilot was. Based on a one and a half million dollar grant. By the MacArthur Foundation. In involves a number of city government in the agency is. And that the results were really favorable. From April to July of Tony seventy lose. They found that. Aid if commissioner Jonathan Freeman. Decided. To. How to presumption of releasing. Low risk were low to moderate risk defendants. Then he would try to do that and it's releasing that goes defendants. On their own recognizance. Without any bail amount set. Or if the law did not. Allow for that then he would sat and nominal violent nominal bond would be about 12125. Project or allow. And really what it found was that compared. Comparing Jonathan Friedman's. Section. With the other five the other Ford sections magistrate court. There raid of the defendants returning to scheduled court was exactly the same it was 90%. And we were talking before the break about. Predicting human behavior and whether or whether we getting a little bit better and what we found is that the existence. New Orleans pretrial services is really doing just that that they are. On the boots on the grounds as soon as a defendant is booked into jail they are literally how lows in the jail. And intervening that defendant. Immediately in trying to deep background checks and gathering all sorts of information. To decide whether. The defendant cancer risk. Not failing to return to schedule query. Or. At. Judges and the criminal district court as well as commissioner Jonathan Friedman. Four. Allowing this pilot project and seeing its success. So for the purposes of listening audience some of the stuff that they do in pretrial services is there follow up phone calls from communicating with the individual that's out making sure that there's no changes in their status. Checking if they've been re arrested this in if they are they going to court and suggest that you know that then a warrant be issued or are now large KP has been issued for this individual. In order to bring them back into the system to force compliance because. At the end of the day no matter what you call what some people would say are these touchy Feely programs. It really is all about accountability that's because the goal is to get them back into the system. Correct and that goal is to get them back into the court to make sure that we're not chasing individuals to make sure that we're not releasing individuals that. We gonna go on to commit other crimes in the pilot project that chronicle is talking about. This pilot project involved low risk. Defendants are low risk and so what we're talking there was increasing the amount of release of these low risk defendants. And going back against Jefferson Parish making sure that we know who has who with a high risk defendants and John about the program in place. We've had code six in for decades and yeah still it's still very vibrant where we actually objectively grow on an objective scale grade every inmate that comes in as it relates to their propensity for violence. And looking at criminal history. Other familial indicators and things of that nature in order to determine risk is that it's a it's a guesstimate and so. If you can use as much objective criteria is as possible and collect all that empirical data you can make. More learned decisions you know when I go to the tax on and and I get comments like this what's the point of what's the point of jail if you know you're gonna let. Them out anyway well the fact of the matter is is you arrest these people to hold him accountable. For their chrome relax attack and in this country you're innocent until proven guilty and then you got to go through that process. As frustrating and sometimes is that may be to folks and obviously sometimes. To law enforcement and other others the fact of the matter is that we've got to make sure that the sanctity of that is preserved because that's what makes our system. Better than every other system that will continue this conversation when we come back it's time to take a break. Would love to hear from you 260187. Or Texas and 878 saddening. This is Noual Norman and every Debbie L. We're back at. We have Simone Levine and Veronica part of quote watch Nolan. We were talking off line just a second ago and I think it's important to put. This in its proper perspective than that. When you look at the overall jail capacity. It's not that you can keep all of these folks Ngo position is simply not enough jail beds so when I look at the arrest rate. And my experience a sheriff in Jefferson Parish we had 12100 beds. And we were arresting. Probably fifteen times and number. On the war its attachments in new charges. Every year or so of the group put the system can't handle. What the throughput was at that point in time so. It's not let you have you do this. Because you wanna do you do it because you have to do it out of necessity one to six system can handle it and there's a constitutional right to bail. In a tight end and Tina the other thing too that we've got to look at is. The fact that we need to reserve does that's for those that really cute too they pose a danger to us than they example we always look at is telly Hankton. And telling hankins one million dollar bail them made absolutely nothing for her hair and Orleans parish one million dollars Bayless has on his case. This is before he was convicted a former leaders who was out on one of the murder cases and there was no pretrial services so they didn't look at his risk of agency that he was so dainty hands. He paid his spam. And then afterwards he went on to comment on the use of Americans can get convicted for four different murders and then. Of course they never established as we know that human intent to cancel the manner. The DM assistant district attorney and also ordered that pickup truck to be kind of ran into the DA's office. So there were clear often times people don't. Really connect the dots what you're saying this is that had there been a more deep dive look into telly Hankton and and what he was doing his bond. Might have been ten million dollars before it's all said and. His aunt should have been no content are no bond for a bond should have been we keep him in the system and we said no fun so that he cannot be released because he is just too high of a risk absolutely and we need to look at that risk factor and I need to make. Make him make sense of who which person is which and throwing to preserve those beds the way that you're talking about. Couldn't talk lines we have. Jail on line one what say you Jiang. Are they such a good college. You questions or quit and Joseph just talk about problem there. What is know what opinions and it just the condition of bail. Who are so happy that you asked about that because we have recommendations. Relating to drug testing. Specifically we that are pretrial services program keep track of those that have. Drug testing because what we found this is that that the increased over him. Ten years on a national basis. A study that was done. Now nationally 90%. Of those that are out on now accurate tested and it does not count in the rewrite history. And it does not help them getting back to court. And so what we're asking our pretrial services program to keep tracking it that. What do you mean by it doesn't help and real frustrating so what we found is is that those that were required to. Do that drug test when they were out they did not improve the rate every arrest when they're out of jail attack. We got to take another break chase still a lot of we're gonna come back to his second question as soon as we come out of the break. And weren't talking about the all important fail system in the commissioner court for criminal district court in New Orleans. With some Olympian Veronica Veronica Barton excuse me. Stay with this will be right back and everybody else. We're back in on attacks why would support a following the law listening to you guys well that this is work. Putting out there what some of the trials and tribulations of managing a criminal justice system present in the fact of the matter is that the balance of interest of constitutional rights. Hazard as opposed to do community that you working in concert with the rights of the criminal defendant. You know and in what you ultimately have to craft we have less than a minute I'll give you guys the last word. So I would say that we are moving in the right direction in criminal district court so generally the higher the risk that somebody. Poses to when they're released if they're gonna be rearrested. If they're not that come back to court the higher the bail them out the lower the risk. The lower the bail amount however there are out buyers who and so we're really asking the court to take a look at things. For example 17%. Of those low risk scores still had a veiled greater than 101000 dollars and at the other end of the spectrum. 22%. Of dependents with Tyrus scores. Have bailout 5000 dollars or less sweet we have some we have a room we have room to make some improvements here ample are moving in the right direction. It your goal is to make sure they show up bass surcharges and get through court thank you so much for joining us this morning is now time for the 1000 dollar nationwide. Free money contest the code word this hour is. Create. Tex CRE a TET seven to me they won it seven to anyone. Score 1000 dollars an easy way. One tax could win you free money listen for the next code word for the top our news at 2 PM good luck from Smart radio Entercom. And all of us at. WWL. Stay with us in the next hour we're going to be talking Issac Butterworth the city attorney for the city in New Orleans talking about. The tit for tat that's gone on between. The federal government in this city relative to Sanctuary Cities.