In September, BGR released a report called “Benchmarking the Bench: Are Public Dollars Being Wasted on Excess Judgeships in Orleans Parish?” (www.bgr.org/reports)
Using a formula developed by the Judicial Council of the Louisiana Supreme Court, the report flags potential judicial surpluses in Orleans Parish and across the state. Recognizing the limitations of the Judicial Council’s methodology, it calls on the Supreme Court to conduct the additional analysis needed to determine whether the courts flagged by the formula indeed have an excessive number of judges.
The report also calls on the Legislature to eliminate any judgeships the Supreme Court determines are unnecessary before the 2014 judicial elections, when 80 percent of the judgeships in Orleans Parish are up for election.
If the Legislature does not act before then, a constitutional prohibition against shortening a sitting judge’s term will forestall any meaningful reform until 2020.
Some news media outlets have incorrectly reported BGR’s report recommends eliminating judgeships at certain courts. In fact, the report draws no conclusions about how many judges the courts need, and it includes no recommendations to eliminate specific judgeships. Instead, it simply recommends that the Judicial Council conduct the requisite follow-up research to determine how many judges are needed at courts that its own metrics strongly suggest have too many.
It asks that this be done not only for Orleans Parish, which the council’s metrics identify as the jurisdiction with the largest estimated surplus by far, but also for any other jurisdiction in the state that the council’s formula suggests has a large judicial surplus.
Given the expenses associated with unnecessary judgeships and the unmet needs at both the state and local levels, BGR’s recommendations are, quite simply, common sense.
Janet R. Howard
president and CEO, Bureau of Governmental Research