By The Hour Staff | The Hour | January 6, 2020
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans’ clerk of criminal district court announced a furlough Friday that would’ve crippled the city’s criminal justice system, only to rescind the threat the next day.
The moves by Orleans Parish Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell are part of an ongoing budget dispute with the city, The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported. Morrell said he plans to discuss the furlough and dispute with the chief judge of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court on Monday, the same day the furlough would’ve gone into effect.
Morrell said the city has failed to pay for his office’s full contingent of needed staffers. He requested about $4.6 million in funding for the 2020 budget and was granted about $4 million. Though the awarded funding was an increase from the previous year, Morrell said the difference left “no choice” but to close up shop.
As the clerk’s office is the only city agency legally authorized to perform some functions, the threatened furlough of about 80 workers would’ve made it so jailed inmates couldn’t post bail.
Mayoral spokesman Beau Tidwell blasted the furlough threat.
“The clerk of court received a budgetary increase for 2020, and those funds are available for his staffing and operational needs,” the statement said. “It is the expectation of this administration and of the people of New Orleans that all public servants, including the clerk of Criminal Court, honor their commitment and do their jobs.”
A longtime observer of the city’s criminal justice system said Morrell can “run that office for most of the year on what the city’s given him.”
“He’s got plenty of time to pursue the difference in the court system,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. “You don’t go to DEFCON 5; you don’t push the launch button if you don’t have to. And I think this is overkill. This is more about trying to create some publicity and less about what the real issue is.”