It took a month longer for a felony case to move through 22nd Judicial District Court in 2017 than it did just three years before, according to a report on St. Tammany Parish’s judicial efficiency that was released Friday by the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
But despite a decline in efficiency, commission President Rafael Goyeneche said the report is an outstanding one for the court because it shows that judges are responding to an increase in violent felony and felony weapons cases, which take longer to deal with.
Among other recommendations, the report urges the court to consider adding more days for criminal trials, which are now held only one week per month.
The judges had no comment on the report, according to Rachel Edelman, the court administrator.
In 2014, when the commission issued the first in a series of reports on the parish’s criminal justice system, the median time for processing a felony case was 12 weeks, compared with 16 weeks in 2017, the year that’s examined in the new report.
The report measures the amount of time that elapses between when a case is accepted by the district attorney for prosecution to its final disposition before a judge.
While St. Tammany’s median is only a day longer than the national benchmark — 112 days versus 111 — the national figures look at a different time period, from arrest to final disposition.
Declining efficiency results in an increased backlog of pending cases, and that has negative consequences, the report said. Victims and defendants have longer waits. Police, prosecutors and defense attorneys might have to repeatedly prepare for court appearances. The Sheriff’s Office faces increased costs when the jail has to hold defendants for a longer period of time.
But Goyeneche said the report, which was paid for by the Northshore Business Council, doesn’t show the judges aren’t working hard.
The docket’s composition changed from 2014 to 2017, he said, with an increase in violent felony and weapons felony cases. Those cases made up 21 percent of pending cases in 2014 but grew to 30 percent three years later.
That shows police and prosecutors are focusing on more serious felony offenders, the report said, with arrests in those categories also on the rise.