Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has provided thousands of pages of documents requested by the New Orleans City Council last month, but he has not yet turned over copies of warrants served on witnesses and victims or so-called “DA subpoenas” sent out by the office.
Council members, in a joint letter, had requested detailed documentation and data from Cannizzaro’s office in October, casting the request as necessary as they evaluate the 2018 budget for the District Attorney’s Office.
That request came after a heated budget meeting that saw Cannizzaro and Councilman Jason Williams — who is seen as a likely candidate for district attorney in 2020 — spar over the office’s policies.
In a letter he sent Tuesday to the City Council, Cannizzarro chided the council for requesting information that he said is regularly turned over to city or state agencies, including information on the office’s diversion program.
All told, a spokesman said, the DA's Office delivered 4,371 pages of documents and performance statistics. The documents filled dozens of large cardboard boxes, and whether anyone at the council will ever look at most of them is anyone's guess.
According to a news release from Cannizzaro's office, it turned over "as much new and redundant data as could be provided" by the Nov. 20 deadline set by the council.
It will be some time before a key element of the request is fulfilled, however.
The council, and criminal justice activists, have been particularly critical of Cannizzaro for jailing certain victims and witnesses to try to compel them to testify and for using bogus subpoenas that do not actually have the force of law to get others to cooperate. In his letter, Cannizzaro said it will take half a year to produce copies of those documents.
“While the office believes and has never denied that such documents are public records, the act of manually reviewing nearly 100,000 case files is quite burdensome,” Cannizzaro wrote. “Nevertheless, given the existence of numerous public records requests as well as your request, the District Attorney’s Office has begun the process of manually reviewing these files.
“Approximately 100 employees in the office are participating in this review,” according to the letter. “However, we do not want the aforementioned review to in any way obstruct our ability to perform the constitutionally mandated functions of the District Attorney’s Office. As such, we estimate that this review could take as long as six months.”