The six judges on the New Orleans juvenile court bench can stop updating their resumes. State legislation proposing to cut their number by two was narrowly defeated Tuesday in a committee vote.
The proposed measure, House Bill 607, was a reaction to a recent recommendation from the state Supreme Court that one juvenile court judge would be sufficient for the city of New Orleans because of reduced workloads. The bill, defeated by a 3-2 Senate committee vote, would have reduced the Orleans Parish juvenile court bench from six judges to four.
According to Rep. Helena Moreno (D-New Orleans), the legislation, which had the backing of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, would have saved the city more than $800,000 a year.
“It’s absolutely unfortunate,” she told WDSU New Orleans after the bill was killed. “I think our taxpayer dollars could be spent in many, many better ways.”
Public records obtained by WDSU indicate that most of the Orleans Parish juvenile court judges work light schedules, with two full time judges, combined, having worked just eight Fridays in 2012.
“These judges are substantially under worked,” said Sen. Conrad Appel (R-Metairie). “The Supreme Court of the state of Louisiana says we need one judge, and we’re supporting six because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.”
Sen. Ed Murray (D-New Orleans) said more time was needed to evaluate the proposal.
“We’re doing some work that’s going to look at the number of judgeships across the state,” he said. “And make a report to the Legislature to next year.”
Four New Orleans City Council representatives testified in favor of the bill at the Tuesday hearing. According to WDSU, none of the Orleans Parish juvenile court judges were in attendance.