East Baton Rouge Parish’s juvenile court judges, one of whom recently had to remove an opossum from his courtroom, made a pitch Wednesday to move their court from Veterans Memorial Boulevard near the Metro Airport to the 19th Judicial District Courthouse in downtown Baton Rouge.
That 11-floor state courthouse, at the corner of North Boulevard and St. Louis Street, also houses East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court and its four judges, as well as several East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court offices.
There are 15 judges on the 19th Judicial District Court bench.
Juvenile Court Judges Pamela Taylor Johnson and Adam Haney made their pitch to the 19th Judicial District Court Building Commission. Juvenile Court would like to occupy the unfinished fifth floor of the 19th Judicial District Courthouse.
“We’re in dire need of a new facility,” said Johnson, who cited mold and mildew issues as well as safety and security concerns.
Haney, who said juvenile defendants are walked through a public waiting room on their way to court, said the Juvenile Court facility is “totally inadequate.”
He also relayed how he had to remove a “very alive” opossum from his courtroom two weeks ago.
“We’re not allowed to have pets,” 19th Judicial District Court Judge Richard Anderson quipped.
State District Judge Janice Clark, who chairs the 19th Judicial District Court Building Commission, acknowledged that Juvenile Court is in “dire and desperate need” of relocating their court, but she said there is no money earmarked for such a move.
State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, and state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, have filed bills in the current legislative session — Marcelle’s to provide additional fees for the 19th Judicial District Court Building Commission and East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Court, and Claitor’s to apply additional court costs and fees to juvenile and family matters.
Family Court judges who attended Wednesday’s meeting said they were not consulted about a push to raise Family Court fees, something that would greatly impact litigants in that court.
Family Court Judge Lisa Woodruff-White said Family Court did not request a hike in its court fees and costs.
Concerns also were raised by judges in attendance about how moving Juvenile Court to the downtown state courthouse would affect traffic in the area and overcrowding on elevators in the building.
“I frankly don’t know if that’s a good idea with all of our downtown parking issues,” 19th Judicial District Court Judge Tony Marabella said.
Johnson said an average of only about 100 people visit Juvenile Court daily. She also said Juvenile Court staggers its dockets at 9 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Nineteenth Judicial District Court Judge Tim Kelley stressed that the Juvenile Court relocation effort is at “the very beginning of trying to get something done” and noted that the current 19th Judicial District Courthouse, which opened several years ago, was 16 years in the making.
Johnson said she has been told it could cost $1 million to $2 million to finish the 19th Judicial District Courthouse’s fifth floor so Juvenile Court could occupy it.