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If it Ain’t Broke….

Posted on by Townsend Myers

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is what I always heard people say – the import of that being that if you try to fix something that isn’t broken, you wind up breaking it. Of course it wouldn’t have come to be an idiomatic expression if people weren’t so fond of trying to fix un-broken things.

Gwen Filosa, of reports on the latest example of this old saying made manifest in the halls of criminal justice:

Orleans judges scrap new allotment system after three months

Gwen Filosa, The Times-Picayune

Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges voted to do away with the case allotment system pushed by both the district attorney and public defender’s office, three months after agreeing to try it out for one year.


In July, the courthouse began assigning criminal cases to one of 12 trial sections by a random system related to the police item number assigned to a defendant at the time of arrest.

Before that switch, cases were allotted to a particular judge’s section only after the district attorney filed charges, which may occur up to 60 days after a defendant is arrested

This week, the judges voted to use a “computer-generated random allotment” of cases by Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell.

The judges will not give interviews about the switch, said spokeswoman Margaret Dubuisson.

“In light of the findings of the National Center for State Courts, the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court has rescinded this rule and has adopted a new rule of court providing for computer generated random allotment of cases by the Clerk of Court, effective October 7, 2010,” Dubuisson said in a statement obtained Thursday.

The judges held an “emergency” meeting on the issue Wednesday, making a unanimous decision without giving either the public defender program or the DA’s office any prior notice.

“This puts us in a bad place,” said Derwyn Bunton, chief public defender, who had reorganized the office under the item number system. “All we want is allotment early, getting folks lawyers as soon as folks enter the system.”

Tinkering with the case allotment system was initially resisted by the 13 judges, who were first brought the proposal by the DA’s office and public defenders last fall.

Representatives for the two offices said if the system was changed, they would be able to change the way attorneys are assigned to cases, allowing them to be more efficient.



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