Now Is The Time To Address Our Court System


Great things are happening at our State Capital! Our legislators so far have largely answered the calls of our newly elected Governor Jeff Landry. Calls which are aimed at redirecting the focus and priorities of our state government. From the 1st Extra Ordinary Session focusing on district boundaries, elections, and campaign finance, to the very important 2nd Extra Ordinary Session which sought to address our crime problem head-on. Now to the ongoing regular session where our legislators, in both the House and the Senate, have been working tirelessly. Many stand strong guided by uncompromising principles. Others, including many new faces, are still learning to navigate their way around the system. No doubt some will wander astray, but with watchful eyes and a firm cane we can redirect them. But of the 1,100+ bills filed during the regular session by the various lawmakers there is one bill that stands apart from all the rest. That bill belongs to Tony Bacala (R 8/10).

Crime is a Problem

We all know crime is an issue. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself to be on the left or on the right of the political spectrum. There is only a difference of opinion on how we should address it and what causes it.

Councilman and Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth “Comedy Hour” Boudreaux (D 1/10), brother of State Senator Gerald Boudreaux (D 1/10) seems to think that guns are the problem. His criticism of probably the best legislation to make it through the 2nd Extra Ordinary Session, SB01 by Blake Miguez (R 9/10) removing legislative barriers to “Constitutional Carry” in Louisiana surfaced last week at the Lafayette City Council meeting. It was there that Boudreaux brought up establishing “gun-free zones” in the City of Lafayette. We have a crime problem, we have violent criminals legally and illegally carrying weapons to commit those crimes, and Boudreaux thinks the best course of action is to prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves. This is why anytime he goes on a rant we should all pop a bag of popcorn, sit back, and be prepared for plenty of laughs. It is just hard to take him seriously. We don’t even think he takes himself seriously, let alone believe the foolishness that spills forth from his mouth.

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People on the right don’t think that “Constitutional Carry” will be the cure-all for crime in our state. However, we are respectful of the fundamental right of individuals to defend themselves from attack. We also think our police officers should be able to do their jobs properly without concern for political optics or correctness. If the left had it their way all police would be running around disarmed, blowing rape whistles, and issuing continued warnings to violent criminals. But amidst the games of tug-a-war, we witness there does sometimes arise proposed legislation that neither side can argue against, such as HB343 by Representative Tony Bacala.

The Timely Delivery of Justice Act

This important bill seeks a practical solution to the crime problem by addressing what has become a bottleneck in every jurisdiction in our state – the Courts. We spoke about the specific number of felony criminal matters in Lafayette Parish recently. The sheer volume of cases and our analysis revealed that of the 92 items set for felony trial in January of 2023, not a single case proceeded to trial. We also pointed out the structure of the Lafayette court system, which essentially is only designed to allow 52 out of the thousands of felony cases filed annually to proceed to trial in any given year.

When conducting our research we came across the National Center for State Courts model standards for handling felony criminal cases and compared them to the outcomes in Lafayette Parish. We found that only 4.9% of cases were resolved within 90 days from the date the prosecution was initiated (compared to the NCSC 75% standard), only 14.1% were resolved within 180 days (NCSC 90% standard), and only 30.2% were resolved within 365 days (NCSC 98% standard). This demonstrated that our local court system fails to keep up at the pace of similarly situated courts that have adopted nationally promulgated standards and have implemented a process of achieving these performance measures. But it is not just in Lafayette Parish, but across our entire state.

Bacala’s Bill

HB343 is one of the simplest pieces of legislation filed this session, but could have the effect of putting Louisiana courts in a posture to promptly address criminals. The bill would create six new articles to the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure:

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  • La. C.Cr.P Art. 584 – Short Title
  • La. C.Cr.P Art. 585 – Adoption of Model Time Standards
  • La. C.Cr.P Art. 586 – Time Delivery of Justice; Time Standards
  • La. C.Cr.P Art. 587 – Interruption
  • La. C.Cr.P Art. 588 – Reporting
  • La. C.Cr.P Art. 589 – Publication of data; Louisiana Supreme Court oversight

Article 584 just provides the legislation title, the “Timely Delivery of Justice Act.” Article 585 adopts the National Center for State Courts model standards for all State Trial Courts in Louisiana and requires the Louisiana Supreme Court to adopt rules necessary for their implementation by January 1, 2025. This is also subject to the oversight of both chambers of the legislature. It defines what is meant by “time standards” – “the temporal length of a criminal case from its commencement on the date that a bill of information, indictment, or affidavit is filed through its conclusion on the date of adjudication.”

Article 586 defines the times standards for felony and misdemeanor cases, as well as violations of traffic and parish/municipal ordinances. With regards to felony matters:

  • 75% must be adjudicated within 90 days of the institution of prosecution
  • 95% within 180 days; and
  • 98% within 365 day

The 2% of cases that aren’t resolved within the first year should be limited to those complex capital cases that are challenging in every jurisdiction. While the time periods for misdemeanor cases are:

  • 75% must be adjudicated within 60 days of the institution of prosecution;
  • 90% within 90 days; and
  • 98% within 180 days

Lastly, traffic and parish/municipal ordinance violations should be addressed as follows:

  • 75% must be adjudicated within 30 days of the institution of prosecution;
  • 90% within 60 days; and
  • 98% within 90 days.

All of these time periods are subject to certain events that may interrupt the time period as outlined in Article 587. One example is the failure of the defendant to appear in court or in matters where the defendant’s mental capacity requires further evaluation and treatment.

Accountability and Transparency

Bacala’s bill doesn’t stop there. In addition to placing legislative committees in a position to hold the Supreme Court accountable for implementing the standards, it also places local elected leaders on a Board responsible for implementing the standards and reporting the outcomes. That Board would consist of the Chief Judge of the Judicial District, the Clerk of Court, and the District Attorney.

The composition of the Board is similar to the make-up of the local Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee Board which was established under the leadership of former Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom. Although the Board had become inactive under the leadership of current Sheriff Mark Garber, it was re-established under the term of newly elected Mayor-President Monique Boulet. A recent survey of the Lafayette Police Department revealed that the overwhelming majority of them (93.8%) believed that a lack of jail space, or rather the arbitrary utilization of jail space by Sheriff Garber was a major contributing factor to increased crime rates. Since that survey was released word has spread that Garber has magically located additional space in the jail for housing criminals.

Lastly, the Louisiana Supreme Court would be responsible for including the information reported by local Boards in their annual reports. It would also be the responsibility of the Louisiana Supreme Court to identify why compliance with the model standards is not occurring. Although the Court would not have any authority over the decisions of local elected officials, they are authorized to make recommendations to the appropriate public officials.

From Sacred Cows to Porterhouses

Chuck Owen (R 9/10) at the close of last year pointed out that if we really wanted to change Louisiana, we had to address its “sacred cows”. A follower of Citizens for a New Louisiana pointed out that he had a slight disagreement with Mr. Owen because he had overlooked one of the biggest sacred cows – lawyers. We contend that Bacala’s bill is a stake (not steak) through the heart of the sacred cow. It addresses an elite section of the sacred cow, the porterhouse, or rather, the courthouse. The place where Judges (elected lawyers) reign supreme and largely unchallenged in the way they conduct their affairs. This must end!

Judges are elected to administer the law in a timely and impartial manner. While this bill deals strictly with criminal courts, we would be remiss if we didn’t remind everyone that Judges have taken great liberty to legislate from the bench. Yes, separation of powers is a necessary thing. But the Court can’t be the only branch of government that is beyond reproach or criticism. They too must be held accountable, and Bacala’s bill seeks to do that in the criminal realm.

Will anyone line up to argue against it?

Our guess is, “yes”. But the bottom line is that it is time for us to institute measures such as the Timely Delivery of Justice Act. Victims of crimes deserve to receive timely justice. Criminals also deserve to have their cases decided in a timely manner. And then for the rare circumstance where an innocent person is falsely accused of a crime, that unfortunate person also deserves to have a prompt adjudication.

It is quite likely that prompt adjudications will result in overall savings to the taxpayer. The likelihood of fewer court dates, fewer attempts at service of process, and far fewer administrative/clerical tasks that accompany every case are all factors that could result in reduced cost. Let’s all keep a close eye on Bacala’s bill. There is certain to be ranchers and ranch hands lining up to protect their prized cattle.


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