After taking office, my administration implemented a heralded reform that moved the state misdemeanor cases from Criminal District Court to Municipal Court. First, this allowed the District Court judges to focus more of their time and attention on the most violent crimes in the city. Second, I believed that the Municipal judges were better equipped to efficiently handle the high volume of these misdemeanor cases.
From the perspective of the district attorney’s office this was never a cost-savings measure. It required my office to expand its operations without receiving any additional resources. The recent slashing of the DA’s budget by the City Council and the mayor’s endorsement of these cuts will require my office to eliminate positions — including assistant district attorneys. We no longer possess the resources to staff both courthouses.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has reversed a 4-year-old policy of funneli…
Despite dramatically reducing the dismissal rate and greatly increasing the felony conviction rate as compared to my predecessors, city leaders are now attempting to extort my office into prosecuting fewer felony cases. Unlike other criminal justice agencies, the DA’s office will not abandon its constitutional responsibilities over money.
City leaders are obsessed with dangerous radical plans to dramatically reduce the current jail population. The false narrative that my acceptance rate is driving up violent crime is not supported by historical fact. My predecessors had a 50 percent acceptance rate when violent crime was at its highest and in 1994 when the murder rate was more than twice what it is today. Unless you believe that the current reduction is solely attributable to midnight basketball, their narrative is logically unsupportable.
With its budgeting power, leaders in City Hall are attempting to force my office to release dangerous criminals back on the street by increasing the refusal rate. They are doing this because they do not want to assume the responsibility incumbent in their radical plans. If the mayor and the City Council want my office to prosecute fewer cases, then simply tell the NOPD to make fewer arrests.
Presumably, that plan is not on the table since these same leaders increased their appropriation to the NOPD by more than $8 million. The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office is probably the most underfunded prosecutors office in the state of Louisiana. Nevertheless, we will not threaten to cut services. We will do the best we can with what little we are given. The real victim in this struggle is public safety, which city leaders are ignoring.
Leon A. Cannizzaro Jr.
Orleans Parish district attorney