25 June 2006

musical chairs at the ninth judicial district court

heres a tt story concerning the recent realignment of the rapides parish 9th judicial district court. jim leggett would have us believe (see link) its working marveously, although, we cant see how its working very well at all. in fact, local attorney mike small has already successfully fought it in one of his cases when he proved that the judges didnt even follow their own rules in the "realignment." we cant figure out how the whole scheme is even legal. it reeks of judge shopping and the extended necessity of lawyer shopping as depending on which judge your case is automatically being heard by, you will have to go through one of their favored local lawyers. (side note: like how the gold law firm controls the federal bench in alexandria) also it would seem to take away all appearance of judicial impartiality - a judge only hearing certain cases would more than likely already have his or her mind made up and thats not right. everyone is entitled to a fair and impartial hearing. several of the judges intentions and ethics are already questionable - we are talking about judges randow, metoyer and koch.

anyway, it would seem that the only fair way to assign cases to this collection would be through a lottery. all judges hear all types of cases and as your case is filed its randomly assigned to whatever judge. this lottery should be a closely guarded secret by the clerk of court to ensure that a lawyer couldnt hedge his chances by waiting till a specific day or time to file his suit to be automatically assigned to his most favored judge. rapides parish so transparent gotta love it.


Judicial switches improving system

By Jim Leggett

(318) 487-6346
Realignment so that two 9th Judicial District judges are on the criminal bench full time is working well, those involved in criminal cases say.

Under the old system, Judge Tom Yeager said, cases received continuance after continuance, meaning the defendants "stayed in jail."

The judges rotated between civil and criminal cases, so if a lawyer had a criminal case before a judge and needed a continuance, the case was continued until the judge rotated into criminal cases again, probably in three or four months.

District Attorney Jam Downs agreed that the new system works better, although he and others say there are still kinks to work out.

Overall, the system "is working better than ever before," he said.

"The continuances, when there are, are shortened to two or three weeks now," Downs said. "The judges really took it to heart" to try to clear the docket.

"This is much better," Judge Donald Johnson agreed. "It made a big difference. But you can't press too hard."

At the beginning of the year, the seven judges on the 9th Judicial District Court realigned themselves so that Johnson (Division A) and Yeager (Division B) would be the criminal court judges. Four others -- Rae Swent (Division C), John Davidson (Division D), George Metoyer (Division F) and Harry Randow (Division G) -- handle civil matters.

Patricia Koch (Division E) handles all juvenile matters for the parish. Randow also handles drug court.

Carolyn Jones Ryland, clerk of court, prepares caseload data for the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the figures show juvenile and criminal cases have almost doubled since 1997, while civil cases have remained about the same and traffic cases have increased slightly.

However, the juvenile caseload growth occurred after the district court took over all juvenile matters from the Alexandria and Pineville city courts.

Criminal cases have seen the most dramatic growth, possibly enough to warrant a third judge for criminal matters, Ryland said.

Yeager disagrees, saying he and Johnson are starting to get a handle on the criminal caseload and should have the docket under control soon.

"If we can't do it, we'll ask for help. We're trying to manage the docket," Yeager said.

Yeager did say, however, that as of this month, there were 500 more criminal cases than at the same time last year.

Joe Kutch, a defense attorney who has handled eight criminal jury trials this year in Rapides Parish, agreed that the system is working better with two judges devoted to criminal matters.

"It's far easier for me to schedule around two judges who don't give me a hard time when I have to be elsewhere," Kutch said. "I think it's working."

Marc Lampert, another defense attorney, agreed.

"Overall I think it's working very, very well," he said. "The system is fine-tuned, and I think that's good."

Originally published June 25, 2006