Local elected officials react to the closure of the Orleans Courthouse

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The doors to the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court building remained locked on Monday, with only a sign on the front doors notifying the public of its closure.

The sign on the door said:

“The Criminal District Court building is currently closed. The hearing is held remotely via the court’s virtual courtroom. Virtual courtrooms must be accessible on www.criminalcourt.org.

According to a statement, Criminal District Court Operations said operations were changed because the court did not have access to any in-custody defendants housed by the OJC.

Justice Center officials say a meeting has been requested with Sheriff Susan Hutson. Court Operations said “judges remain committed to resuming normal court operations and hope for a successful outcome.”

When announcing the closure of the justice center, several local officials responded to recent tragedies at the criminal justice center and ongoing issues with labor shortages within the sheriff’s office.

Oliver M. Thomas, Jr., District “E” Council Member and Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, released the following statement:

“Our Sheriff Susan Hutson recently advised criminal justice system partners that Deputy Sheriffs will be removed from their duties and responsibilities to support the prevention of further tragedies such as those that recently occurred at the Criminal Justice Center.
The current calamities are unfortunate. I would like to pray for these detainees, their families and the loved ones who supported them. Given the recent spike in violence and the devastation taking place on our streets, we cannot afford to shut down or slow down our justice system or negatively impact families and other parts of the justice system. criminal justice that depend on the order and protection these MPs provide. . I demand a better solution and a better compromise from the sheriff while all partners come together to try to solve this problem.

The prosecutor’s office released a statement in response to holding the court remotely:

“As we look forward to trying a number of cases before juries over the next few weeks in court, including seven this week alone, we understand the safety and security concerns at the Orleans Justice Center. When we learned of this new emergency closure, the prosecutor’s office worked overnight to put a triage plan in place to continue working to ensure justice for victims and families. On Sunday evening, my team began the process of reaching out to survivors and witnesses to inform them of today’s closure. Additionally, I have instructed prosecutors to continue to move cases forward through virtual hearings conducted online via zoom. We will not allow this emergency closure to distract our focus from delivering justice in New Orleans, and we stand ready to do everything in our power to keep the administration of justice moving forward,” said District Attorney Jason Williams.

Shortly after, Mayor LaToya Cantrell also commented on OJC’s closure, saying:

The safety and well-being of inmates under our care at the Orleans Justice Center remains a top public safety priority. We look forward to Sheriff Hutson designing a long-term solution that addresses the unacceptable violence within the facility, as well as developing a comprehensive approach that focuses on mental health issues.

In the meantime, Public Information Officer Walt Pierce said the Orleans Parish Civil District Court was open and fully operational, adding that “security is assured and the situation is constantly being monitored.”

Pierce adds that the justice system and Sheriff Hutson are in contact to ensure the court is “safely secured at all times.”

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