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Judge-ment Day

Magistrate Judge Race, Sewerage and Water Board on Saturday's Ballot

There's two days to before the October 19 election. In addition to a pile-up of candndates for Traffic Court Judge, the ballot will also feature candidates for the Criminal District Court Magistrate judgeship. Also on the docket are a pair of City Charter changes, including a measure that would amend the makeup of the Sewerage and Water Board.


Earlier this week, NoDef provided a guide the Traffic Court Judge race. Below is a roundup of the other items on the ballot.



The Criminal District Court Magistrate Judgeship has a six-year elected term and conducts some of the preliminary proceedings for the Court, such as determining if the burden of evidence has been met for a trial. The court also handles some misdemeanor cases.


The three candidates for this position—Harry Cantrell, Morris Reed, and Mark Vicknair—are all counting on either their experience in the court or promises of improving the jobs productivity to win voters over. Here's a look at the three.



Harry Cantrell has been serving as the Magistrate Commissioner in the office of the Criminal Court for well over a decade, and is now running for the Judgeship of that office. Cantrell is counting on that experience and history to win the race.


Cantrell also announced that he has the backing of D.A. Leon Cannizzaro, who said, “As Commissioner of Magistrate Court for the past fourteen years, Harry Cantrell has played an important role in the Criminal Justice System by conducting court hearings and setting bonds. There is no one in this race that is more knowledgeable of that process or possesses the needed experience that Harry has.  I fully support his candidacy and will cast my vote for him on October 19th."


Cantrell stated that, “I am so proud to have the support of the District Attorney.  For the last 14 years, I have worked to address crime as a Magistrate Commissioner.  I hope to continue that mission as a Criminal Court Magistrate Judge. I know that together with the District Attorney we will be able to continue to fight crime and do everything to keep our citizens and community safe."


EndorsementsDA Leon Cannizzaro and the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.



Reed is an attorney in the city, and previously a Criminal District Court Judge and also ran for Civil District Court Judge back in 2010. In a recent interview, Reed expounded upon his plans for the position, which includes expanding the powers of the position and taking on more cases per day.


“In theory,” Reed said, "the Magistrate Court is supposed to facilitate the administration of Criminal Justice by compartmentalizing more mundane tasks such as bond-settings, first appearances and search arrest warrant authorizations, freeing District Judges to handle more efficiently, felonies and misdemeanors. But it doesn’t.”


Reed said that the magistrate usually works about one-hour to an hour-and-a-half a day, and the he would, "work to change that to get more productivity out of the office."


Reed also said that he—like candidate Mark Vicknair—wants to up the hours of the position, saying that the Magistrate is currently "underutilized." Reed also says he will petition the legislature to broaden the powers and jurisdiction of the position.


If these powers could not be expanded, and the city continues to pay a six-figure salary for an hour of work, then Reed said he agrees with the Bureau of Governmental Research, that this judgeship could be eliminated.




Vicknair is a former Municipal Court prosecutor and a litigator for the Juvenile and Criminal Courts.


Like Reed, Vicknair has cited the Magistrate Judgeship's $135,000-plus yearly salary as reason for whomever is elected to show a full-time commitment to the position. Vicknair has also put forth a five-point platform, which includes an electronic warrant system; a comprehensive re-examination of the process, to further increase efficiency; and creating programs for first-time offenders


Vicknair is preaching efficiency as a key, citing that the magistrate's office could become a bottleneck for the system, impeding the entire criminal justice process for the city. He also pledges his, "Commitment to Fairness," both for the public and the accused.


"The Magistrate Court owes it to both society and the accused to respect the dignity of everyone who comes before the court, while also protecting our city from those who are dangerous," said Vicknair.



Alliance for Good Government, Forum for Equality, Greater New Orleans Republicans, Regular Democratic Organization, Independent Women's Organization, Young Democrats of New Orleans, New Orleans Coalition, New Orleans Bar Assocation Bar Poll Winner, Louisiana Senator J.P. Morrell, City Council President Jackie Clarkson, Represenative Nick Lorusso, Orleans Parish School Board Member Seth Bloom, and Orleans Parish School Board Member Woody Koppel.



CHANGE 1 will amend Sections 4-102(2)(a) and 4-704 of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans—effective January 1, 2014. This will abolish the Board of Electrical Examiners, as well as the Board of Examiners of Operating Engineers, and the Board of Mechanical Examiners from the Department of Safety and Permits, and remove any reference to these Boards in the City Charter.


CHANGE 2 will amend the City Charter (specifically Section 5-301), to read as follows:


"The Sewerage and Water Board in existence at the adoption of this Charter shall be continued. The Board shall be composed of the Mayor; two syndicate members of the Board of Liquidation, City Debt; and eight citizens who are domiciled in and electors of the City appointed as provided by applicable state and municipal law."


In just those few sentences, a lot of change going on. The new language reduces the size of board from 13 to 11, and eliminates members of the City Council as board members. Term limits of board members will also be reduced from nine years to four years, and require the eight citizens to be selected from a list provided to the mayor by a committee. The state legislature has already passed a measure on the Board's governance, which was pushed by Mayor Mitch.

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