Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday

In case you're as jaded by politics as I am, check out the returns on the original Super Tuesday. That's Fat Tuesday in New Orleans. Happy Mardi Gras!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Selective Service: Jury Duty

Jury duty is a chore, but I'm not sure being swept up off the streets in a citizen dragnet is what most complainers had in mind. To be sure, jury duty is a civic duty, a small price to pay for living in a civilized, democratic society. But I'd like to think that presupposes to advanced notice (like a summons in the mail) to allow prospective jurors to plan their days around the disruption to their normal daily routine. Some judges have a different idea, conscripting citizens off the streets for jury duty when the jury rolls just can't keep pace with courtroom demand for fresh bodies.

I believe everyone has an obligation to serve, but I suspect snatching people off the streets to serve on a jury is going to debase juries, stocking them full of disgruntled people who are going to be looking for a speedy way to return to their posts rather than spend their time as conscientious jurors listening attentively to a trial. Well, I suppose that much won't change.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

And the winner is...

It looks like 2007 was another banner year for New Orleans, at least as far as crime statistics. Once again, the Big Easy looks to take the murder capital crown. It is unfortunate that the violence overshadows many positives for a city on the rebound. Hopefully 2008 will be a safer year as the City's economy continues to prosper.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Judging Poor Judgment

Former Orleans Parish civil judge C. Hunter King has managed to have his record expunged as part of a deal under which he pleaded guilty to extortion and conspiring to commit public payroll fraud. His offense was requiring court employees to sell batches of $250 fundraising tickets or face termination. That's not only illegal but pathetic. Does he really deserve to have his record wiped clean? In my view, probably not. Mr. King's offense reflected incredibly poor judgment for a sitting judge and lawyer. That is not the sort of judgment that is the hallmark of judging. Nor does it seem fair given that so many people with far more petty offenses are plagued with stained criminal records that prevent them from ever enjoying gainful employment, while Mr. King looks like he's on the road to practicing law again. And Mr. King's fraud is particularly galling because he used public resources -- public servants paid by the state -- for his own personal gain. He not only has poor judgment, but he abused the public trust as part of a scheme to perpetuate his own political existence. He hardly deserves a free pass for that.

Judge Julian Parker, the criminal court judge who sentenced Mr. King, thinks the expungement fairly cleanses the supposed racism under which Mr. King suffered. At sentencing, Judge Parker lamented from the bench that Mr. King had been "set up." Really? Mr. King's decision to break the law by conscripting public employees to do his bidding was part of a racist entrapment plot? It sounds to me that Mr. King was "set up" in the same way that former DC Mayor Marion Barry was "set up" by that "*itch" who smoked crack with the Mayor in a hotel room. Mr. Barry and Judge Parker seem to be saying, "Never mind the underlying crimes; blame the person who had the courage (audacity?) to shine the light on the shady conduct." That's a glorified street thug creed to blame the snitch, forget the crime. Just what New Orleans needs.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Taking a Chance on a Second Chance

Only the future can know if our judgments were the best decisions when made. Even then, certainty is constantly challenged by the unfolding of ever more future events. This is especially true when judges must mete out punishments, particularly in the cases of juvenile offenders. Can a particular juvenile offender be reformed? Will rehabilitation chart a new course for a troubled teen? Or is the child sentenced to a juvenile facility merely waiting to cross the threshold into adulthood (and beyond the reach of the juvenile detention system) to blossom in an adult offender? Is it naive hope to think we can mold damaged children into productive adults who will leave there troubled pasts behind? These questions do not have easy answers. But there is proof that we cannot and should not give up on ever troubled child, even those who commit the most heinous crimes as children. Read this and then consider these questions.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A new wrinkle on the federal bench

The tables have turned on Judge Thomas Porteous. The man charged with meting out justice himself faces serious judicial scrutiny -- again. A special investigative panel has referred Judge Porteous, a federal judge in New Orleans, for impeachment proceedings. This is not Judge Porteous' first time under the microscope. His conduct as a state judge (he was named to the federal bench in 1994) came under scrutiny in the 2005 "Wrinkled Robe " investigation that examined alleged official corruption. Although the investigation netted 11 guilty please and jail terms for two state judges, Judge Porteous dodged a bullet. Not this time. He has been dogged by lingering questions about alleged misstatements in financial disclosures, particularly for failing to disclose (allegedly) improper gifts received from attorneys practicing before his Court. He evidently dodged a criminal indictment, but that hasn't put an end to it. He recently returned to the bench after a leave of absence following the loss of his home to Hurricane Katrina, and then his wife. But it looks like his stay may be short lived. Hopefully there will be a dignified end to this saga.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Little Pink Houses

If it takes a village to raise a child, perhaps it take a movie star to build a village. While the City and State seem content to sit on their hands and point fingers, Brad Pitt is putting his money and star power where his mouth is. With his own $5 million, another $5 million from philanthropist Steve Bing, and other significant pledges, Mr. Pitt is starting a house building movement in the Lower Ninth Ward. This is not about fame or recognition -- Mr. Pitt already has plenty. It's about facing down challenges and taking action. There are many naysayers (just check the comments attached to the article), but the will to try and fail should triumph over the inertia of doing nothing.