A New Orleans judge has ruled for Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell in a long-running dispute with the city over his budget.
Civil District Court Judge Sidney Cates IV decided the city must pay Morrell $141,600 that was withheld from the clerk’s 2012 budget.
At the time, Mayor Mitch Landrieu had imposed citywide budget cuts, but Morrell, who is independently elected, argued that he was immune from the fallout because his office is a state entity. The city has maintained that Morrell spends too much without explaining why.
Cates found for Morrell on Thursday, writing that the city failed to comply with its statutory obligation to fully fund the Clerk’s Office.
That decision flowed from a 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruling last year. The appeals court ruled that the Clerk Office’s must be fully funded, but it allowed for some flexibility on the city’s part and ultimately left it up to Cates to sort out the details.
The amount of money involved in the dispute is tiny compared with the city’s overall budget — the equivalent of five full-time positions.
Cates’ ruling could, however, set a precedent insulating Morrell from City Hall budget makers.
“The evidence clearly proves that the city fully fulfilled its statutory obligations,” said the mayor’s press secretary, Brad Howard. “We are reviewing to determine if we will appeal.”