These are a sample of the questions 2000 Louisiana citizens were asked as part of a Consumer Research and Service Development Project commissioned by the Louisiana Supreme Court to Dr. Susan Howell of the University of New Orleans Survey Research Center. Working with Dr. Howell is the Louisiana Supreme Court Advisory committee, specially appointed to oversee the project and to provide recommendations for judicial branch improvement. The Advisory Committee represents a broad-base of distinguished business, government and community leaders from across the state. I thank them for their commitment to this project and look forward to working with them in the months ahead.
The results of the consumer research study are detailed on pages 4
and 5 and are a quantitative assessment of the perceptions of Louisiana's
citizens on many court issues. Some perceptions may not reflect the facts, and
these we can address by improving communications between the community and the
courts. Other perceptions, however, are strong indicators that changes are
needed in the court system - such as reducing delay, enhancing access,
increasing efficiency, and improving fairness and sensitivity - all of which
will go a long way toward recapturing the public's trust. The most important
thing for us to remember is that when dealing with citizens' attitudes toward
justice, perception is reality.
CORNERThe Judicial Administrator's Office is the managerial arm of
the Louisiana Supreme Court, serving as fiscal agent and staffing the Judicial
Council and numerous court-appointed task forces and committees. Over time, the
scope and services of the Judicial Administrator's Office have broadened due to
the innovations and reforms instituted by the Louisiana Supreme Court, among
these, measures to strengthen public trust and confidence in the state
Consequently, in January of 1997, a Community Relations Department was established in the Judicial Administrator's Office, resulting in the creation of numerous programs which encourage partnerships between courts and the communities they serve: Judicial Ride-Along, Chamber-to-Chamber, Consumer Research and Service Development Project, Conference on User-Friendly Courts, the Judges' Speakers Bureau and the Court Column newsletter.
I am pleased to report that the Community Relations Department was
recently honored by the Bureau of Governmental Research with a 1998 Excellence
in Government Award for its "outstanding efforts to incorporate creative,
constructive ideas in government." Please join me in congratulating this
department for a job well done - and make use of their services.
BGR Excellence in Government Award Recipient
In 1997, upon the recommendation of the Louisiana Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Fairness, the Louisiana Supreme Court adopted a Code of Professionalism to underscore the Court's unwavering commitment to a Vision of Fairness in Louisiana Courts. An aspirational guideline, the Code of Professionalism establishes the standard of fairness, civility and professionalism expected of judges in every Louisiana court.
Thanks to a grant from the State Justice Institute, the Supreme Court
was able to reproduce the Code of Professionalism as a colorful poster. Look for
it on display in your local courthouse!
Judges' Code of ProfessionalismWe will be courteous,
respectful, and civil to lawyers, parties and witnesses. We will maintain
control of the proceedings, recognizing that judges have both the obligation and
authority to insure that all litigation proceedings are conducted in a civil
We will not employ hostile, demeaning or humiliating words in opinions or in written or oral communications with lawyers, parties or witnesses.
We will be punctual in convening all hearings, meetings and conferences; if delayed we will notify counsel, if possible.
We will be considerate of time schedules of lawyers, parties and witnesses in scheduling all hearings, meetings and conferences.
We will make all reasonable efforts to decide promptly all matters presented before us for decision.
We will give the issues in controversy deliberate, impartial and studied analysis and consideration.
While endeavoring to resolve disputes efficiently, we will be considerate of the time constraints and pressures imposed on lawyers by the exigencies of litigation practice.
We recognize that a lawyer has a right and a duty to present a cause fully and properly, and that a litigant has a right to a fair and impartial hearing. Within the practical limits of time, we will allow lawyers to present proper arguments and to make a complete and accurate record.
We will not impugn the integrity or professionalism of any lawyer on the basis of clients whom or causes which the lawyer represents.
We will do our best to insure that court personnel act civilly toward lawyers, parties and witnesses.
We will not adopt procedures that needlessly increase litigation expense.
We will bring to lawyers' attention uncivil conduct which we observe.
We will be courteous, respectful and civil in opinions, ever mindful that a position articulated by another judge is the result of that judge's earnest effort to interpret the law and the facts correctly.
We will abstain from disparaging remarks or criticisms, or sarcastic or demeaning comments about another judge in all written and oral communications.
We will endeavor to work with other judges in an effort to foster a spirit of cooperation in our mutual goal of enhancing the administration of justice.
Now, once a student is identified as having 10 unexcused absences, Judge Swent sends letters to the parents requesting a court appearance. Judge Swent then gives the parents, on a voluntary basis, the option of signing a FINS (Family in Need of Services) Agreement promising no more unexcused absences or scheduling a court date to formally argue their case before her in court.
Judge Swent stresses the fact that the first indication of delinquency is poor school attendance. As such, she has targeted middle school students as a test group for Truancy Court because they are at a crucial age when behavioral problems start to rise. "The only thing worse than a child out of school with idle time on his hands is two children out of school together. The things children can cook up together astonish me."
For more information about Truancy Court contact Judge F. Rae Swent at (318) 443-6893.
Outstanding Bench WarrantsThe 11th Judicial District Court has
instituted a procedure which promotes accurate record keeping and avoids
unnecessary arrests following first-time failures to appear for arraignment in
traffic violation cases. Bench warrants issued for a defendant's arrest are held
until the court checks each case file to confirm that the defendant received
proper notice of the court date and that a fine is indeed outstanding in the
case. The court then sends a letter notifying the defendant that a bench warrant
has been issued for his/her arrest and allowing the defendant 30 days to respond
either by pleading guilty and paying the associated penalties or scheduling a
court date to contest the charges. Only if the defendant fails to respond does
the court forward the bench warrant to the Sheriff's Office. Not only has the
program succeeded in the collection of fines, it has also enhanced communication
between the court, the Clerk of Court's Office, the District Attorney's Office
and the Sheriff's Office.
For more information contact Judge Robert E. Burgess at (318) 872-1366.
Judges Serve Jury DutyIt used to be that judges - along with
lawyers, doctors, dentists, veterinarians, ministers, nuns, firefighters, and
police officers - were exempt from jury service. Not anymore. The Louisiana
Supreme Court eliminated all automatic exemptions in 1994, a step that made jury
pools more representative by making the age-old principle of "trial by a jury of
one's peers" more of a reality.
No one is more aware of this reality than Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge C. Hearn Taylor who was called for jury service in the Orleans Criminal District Court and actually served as a juror in two cases, including a first degree murder trial which required a four-day sequestration.
In an effort not to over-influence the deliberations, Judge Taylor refused to be the jury foreman and always listened to the views of fellow jurors before weighing in with his own. After 13 hours of deliberation, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged, but deadlocked on whether to impose the death penalty, resulting in a sentence of life imprisonment. What most impressed Taylor was how seriously people take jury service. "People cried. It was a taxing moment for a lot of us."
Judge Taylor noted of his jury service, "I made some unwarranted history: the first judge ever to be sequestered for a first-degree murder trial. It's a national first, not just one for New Orleans."
We Mean Business - The Louisiana Supreme Court display exhibit was a novel feature at the East Jefferson Business Association Trade Show. The exhibit, which highlights good news, information and programs of the state judiciary, has been used at similar events to reach out to students, teachers, legislators and members of the bench and bar.
A list of 150 topics was complied by the University of New Orleans Survey Research Center from other states' survey instruments and from the Trial Court Performance Standards. From this list, the Supreme Court Advisory Committee determined which topics would be included in the survey.
More than 75 citizens - each with some type of personal experience with Louisiana courts within the past five years - participated, including police officers, attorneys, employees of the courts and district attorneys' offices, jurors, witnesses, criminal defendants, civil plaintiffs and defendants, and traffic courts users.
At the end of each discussion, group members were asked
to name the single improvement in the court system they would like to make if so
empowered. These included:
"These results will not sit on a shelf. Our committee, at the invitation of Chief Justice Calogero, has agreed to remain intact and meet approximately every two months for the purpose of continuing the work of the Advisory Committee by focusing on solutions to the problems the public has identified," said Barry Erwin, Advisory Committee co-chair.
Judges joined lawyers participating in the LSBA's "Lawyers Helping Hands" program, serving lunch for a week at Ozanam Inn, a New Orleans soup kitchen for the homeless. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal Judge James Cannella said of the experience, "I will always remember the faces of the people I was privileged to serve that day and hope, that in some way, I was able to make their lives better, even for an hour."
Topics such as "The Role of a Judge" and "Careers in Law" were discussed by 13 judges who appeared on radio and television talk shows during a statewide "Law Day Media Blitz." Participants included: Judge Jerome Barbera, III, 17th JDC; Judge Paul Bonin, Orleans Traffic Court; Judge Henry Brown, 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal; Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr., Louisiana Supreme Court; Judge Paul deMahy, 16th JDC; Judge Marion Edwards, 24th JDC, Judge W. Ross Foote, 9th JDC; Judge Richard Ganucheau, Orleans CDC; Judge D. Milton Moore, 4th JDC; Justice Revius Ortique (ret.), Louisiana Supreme Court; Judge Douglas Saloom, Lafayette City Court; and Judge Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
Judge W. Ross Foote of the 9th JDC in Alexandria presided over a Mock Jury Selection Voir Dire during the Louisiana Center for Law and Civic Education's Law Day Youth Summit in New Orleans. 185 middle and high school students from Orleans, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist, St. Tammany, Baton Rouge and Calcasieu Parishes were in attendance.
Judges Paul deMahy, Jules Edwards, Durwood Conque and Frances
Bouillion participated in a Youth Empowerment Summit developed by the Lafayette
Young Lawyers Section of the Louisiana State Bar Association. Over 75 Lafayette
area students attended the interactive program designed to help teenagers better
understand the legal system.
Domestic Violence Project Aids Battered Women and
ChildrenRecognizing the critical needs of victims of
domestic abuse, the Community Action Committee of the Louisiana State Bar
Association sponsors an annual collection drive to aid two New Orleans emergency
domestic violence shelters. For the third consecutive year, the Louisiana
Supreme Court courtroom was filled with row upon row of boxes containing food
staples, bedding, diapers, clothes and children's toys donated to the shelters.
Louisiana Supreme Court justices, New Orleans area judges, attorneys and legal
staff members joined to celebrate the success of the volunteer effort. During
the ceremony Chief Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr. applauded everyone's
generosity and noted, "So often we hear only negative stories about the legal
profession, but here we have a wonderful example of our profession willingly
responding to the needs of the less fortunate."
For more information about the Community Action Committee contact Sandra Vujnovich at (504) 568-5727.
Law Firms Volunteer As Indigent DefendersResponding to
a request by the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, the following law firms
volunteered a total of 48 attorneys to represent indigent defendants in Section
"K": Chaffe, McCall, Phillips, Tolar & Sarpy; Christovich & Kearney;
Fisher & Phillips; Frilot, Patridge, Khonke & Clements; Gordon, Arata,
McCollam & Duplantis; Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrere &
Denegre; Kullman Firm; Lemle & Kelleher; Liskow & Lewis; McGlinchey,
Stafford & Lang; Montgomery, Barnett, Brown, Read, Hammon & Mintz, LLP;
and Phelps Dunbar. "These law firms should be commended for their volunteerism,
participation in the administration of criminal justice and efforts supporting
the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender's Office," said Section "K" Judge Arthur L.
Hunter , Jr.
Mentor For A DaySome fathers who failed to pay child
support may have been surprised when they looked up and saw 10 year old April Wiggins sitting on the
bench in East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court Judge Kathleen Richey's courtroom.
Wearing a judge's robe and banging the gavel, April "presided" over non-support
proceedings as part of the "Mentor for a Day" program sponsored by the Baton
Rouge chapter of Big Buddy. April's dream is to become a lawyer. "You can affect
a kid for a lifetime. It doesn't take any effort, it just takes time," said
Judge Richey who has been active in the Big Buddy program for 8 years.
For more information about Mentor for a Day contact Judge Kathleen Richey at (504) 354-1250.
User-Friendly CourtsQuality management and customer
service are concepts which have long been at work in the private sector, but
only recently embraced by government. "We must recognize that court users, such
as litigants, jurors, witnesses, and lawyers, are actually court customers who
rely greatly on the quality of service provided by court employees," said Chief
Justice Pascal F. Calogero, Jr. in his opening remarks to Louisiana judges,
clerks of court, and court administrators representing 45 state courts and
participating in a one-day "user-friendly courts" conference sponsored by the
Louisiana Supreme Court.
Conference workshops were led by Patrick Mene, Vice-President of Quality for the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company; Caroline Fisher, Ph.D., Director of the Master of Quality Management Program at Loyola University's College of Business Administration; Tim Faustko, National Center for State Courts; and Chelle Uecker, 4th JDC in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Prompted by the success of the conference, the Judicial Administrator's Office and Loyola University are discussing the feasibility of seeking grant funding for the implementation of a pilot TQM training program for state court judges and employees.
For more information on TQM in the Courts, contact Tony Gagliano at (504) 568-8249.
Choose from the Judges' Speakers Bureau's wide range of
topics or come up with your own. The Community Relations Department will make
arrangements for a speaker who will best fit your group's needs.
Please send requests for the Judges' Speakers Bureau at
least 30 days prior to the event date.
There is no charge for the services of the Judges Speakers Bureau or the speakers.
Ipso Facto: Friends Of The Algiers CourthouseThe
Algiers Courthouse, built in 1896, is the third oldest continuously used
courthouse in Louisiana and home to the 2nd City (Municipal) Court in New
Orleans. The Romanesque Revival courthouse was extensively renovated by the City
of New Orleans in the late 1970's and early 1980's; however, funding for
continuous maintenance was unavailable. Faced with widespread building
deterioration, termite damage and vandalism of surrounding structures, the
Algiers Point Civic Association formed a nonprofit organization, "Friends of the
Algiers Courthouse," to restore and maintain the historic property for
educational and public use.
Projects planned by the group include restoration of courthouse "stables" for a museum, landscaping, repair of the courthouse clocks and fieldstone sidewalks, and installation of exterior lighting. Funding for these projects comes from donations, grants and innovative fundraising activities such as the "Algiers Courthouse Walk/Run."
For more information, contact Judi Robertson at (504) 366-3291.
Judge Kirk R. Granier, Chief Judge of the 29th JDC, who also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, has been appointed a Military Judge. Of 565 attorneys who serve in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, only 8 have been selected for Reserve Military Judge.
Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Ernestine S. Gray has been elected Chairwoman of the Volunteers of America 1998 board of directors.
Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge C. Hearn Taylor has been elected President of the City Park board of directors.
Charles K. Hardin, Judicial Planner for the Louisiana Supreme Court, was one of 40 graduates on May 8, 1998 earning the title of "Fellow of the Institute for Court Management" upon completing ICM's Court Executive Development Program.
1st Circuit Court of Appeal Chief Judge Morris A. Lottinger, Jr., who will retire on July 15, 1998 after 27 years of public service, was commended for his many accomplishments and contributions by the Louisiana House of Representatives (HR-No.7).
The Community Relations Department of the Louisiana Supreme Court was awarded a 1998 Excellence in Government Award from the Bureau of Governmental Research which recognizes excellence and innovation of those working to improve government.
Any comments should be sent to:
Community Relations Department
Judicial Administrators Office
1555 Poydras St. Suite 1540
New Orleans, LA 70112-3701