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New Orleans criminal court reopens nine months after Katrina

[JURIST] The Orleans Parish Criminal District Court [official website] building in New Orleans officially reopens Thursday morning, and the first criminal trials since Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] struck at the end of August are scheduled to start on Monday. According to Chief Judge Calvin Johnson, the court will be able to hear 12 or fewer cases a day in the seven courtrooms of the twelve courtrooms that are currently serviceable. The court already has a backlog of about 5,000 cases and will not be caught up and running normally for about a year. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has more.

Hurricane Katrina has had a devastating impact on New Orleans' criminal justice system [PBS report], forcing Johnson to order the release [Times-Picayune report] of all inmates held on nonviolent misdemeanor and traffic violations to make room for those charged with more serious offenses. In February, Judge Arthur Hunter suspended prosecutions [JURIST report] in most cases involving public defenders because the office could not provide adequate representation, staff numbers having dropped from 48 attorneys and investigators to only seven. AP has more. The Times-Picayune has photos.

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