Change of Procedure for Misdemeanor Trials
Posted on Oct 20, 2010 in Courts, Local Issues
In the largest shake up of the New Orleans justice system in years, the Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that misdemeanor cases may not be presided over by magistrate commissioners. For decades the unelected magistrates have been holding trials for misdemeanors, which do not require a jury, in order to ease the caseload on local judges. However, shortfalls within the system have recently been receiving attention.
The magistrates’ failure to hold probable cause hearings within the allotted 48 hours has raised ire and caused the Orleans public defenders’ office to challenge the extent of their power . The magistrates, judicially-appointed lawyers, whose main function is to expedite less serious cases through the justice system, have also let dangerous criminals slip through the cracks. Former Commissioner Marie Bookman acquitted one domestic violence defendant who two days later murdered his mother-in-law, sister-in-law,and wife.
The full ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision remain to be seen. There are now hundreds of cases that need to be redirected, and no one knows where they will go. It is speculated that District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro may transfer all misdemeanor cases to the Orleans Parish Municipal Court. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor and need help navigating the rearranged judicial landscape, contact Bloom Legal at 504-599-9997 for a consultation.