Filed Under:  Local, News, Politics

Judge Frank Marullo’s re-election being challenged

16th June 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

An Orleans Parish Criminal Court race is heating up for this fall because of mandated retirement ages, and Graham Bosworth believes that gives him an opportunity to succeed a longtime entrenched incumbent.

Technically, under the law, at 74, Judge Frank Marullo has already passed the state judicial mandatory retirement age of 70, should he were to opt to run again for another term in the fall. However, Marullo has argued since he was elected prior to the ratification of the current 1974 state constitution, he came to office prior to mandatory retirement ages. Therefore, the long-time incumbent believes he should be able to run as long as he is able, which the previous 1921 state constitution allowed, and questions the entire notion of forced retirements.

Due to the power of incumbency, only one candidate has opted to challenge the six-term Criminal Court incumbent, Graham Bos­worth. When asked if he agreed with Marullo’s contention that the retirement age for judges should be abolished, he replied, “Consi­dering the outdated infrastructure and technology in Criminal District Court, I think that legislation that encourages new faces, fresh ideas, and the energy to fight for change is necessary in government, in the judiciary and beyond. There is no question that wisdom can improve with age, and the longer a judge serves, the more experience they have and the better able they are to run their courtroom. But eventually, there may be a tipping point where allowing judges to stay on the bench indefinitely can have the unfortunate side effect of discouraging change. Historically, sitting judges rarely lose bids for reelection, and so I do not think that the retirement age should be abolished.”

The ability to take a fresh look at a case is key to the reason why Bosworth runs. “To me, a great judge is someone who is impartial and open minded, and who gives equal opportunity to both sides to develop their case. Someone with a solid understanding of criminal law and procedure, who understands the short and long term effects of his decisions, and isn’t worried about the headlines in tomorrow’s paper when making those decisions. These characteristics are important because without an open mind and willingness to treat both sides equally, a Judge can fall into the habit of assuming that all criminal cases are the same and simply processing defendants through the system.”

He runs on three primary campaign planks, “Implementing new technology to improve efficiency in my section of Court; Improving communication between the Court and the various other agencies that make up our Criminal Justice System; and Improving accessibility to the Court so that New Orleans residents better understand how the Court functions and how it can better serve the community. This includes defendants, witnesses, families, and police officers, all of whom need to be able to efficiently get information about their cases.”

“These three general planks offer solutions to specific problems at Criminal District court, and these have been issues that have made up my campaign platform since I announced my candidacy last year. Moreover, the importance of these planks was highlighted recently by the 2013 Court Watch NOLA report on Criminal District Court. The report lamented the technological deficiencies in the courthouse and the inefficiencies that continue to cause what it has dubbed a “Culture of Conti­nuances” at Tulane and Broad. Those continuances cost the city, both directly and indirectly, countless dollars and critically limit the Court’s ability to provide for justice in criminal proceedings. The report also specifically cites the inability to get incarcerated defendants to court as one of the leading causes of delays in criminal proceedings.“

“Finally, in a state that has an incarceration rate five times that of Iran, and 13 times that of China, it’s imperative that Criminal District Court improve its accessibility and transparency. The citizens of New Orleans should be able easily contact my courtroom and keep track of their cases and events being handled by the Court. These steps are needed so that the residents of New Orleans can hold the judiciary accountable. As Judge, my courtroom will keep regular hours every day. It will have a publicly accessible website with a calendar of all upcoming set proceedings. Attorneys will be able to file documents online, which service is not currently available. Moreover, as judge, I will be active and involved in the community, continuing, for example, my role on the Louisiana Sentencing Commission, chair of the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization, and community volunteer, so that my decisions will be based on a real understanding of our city and our communities.”

And his campaign planks highlight what Bosworth considers “The biggest problem at Criminal District Court, which can be addressed by Criminal District Court, is its outdated technology and infrastructure.”

“Eventually,” he explained, “necessary and dramatic steps need to be taken to give the judiciary the tools it needs to be more efficient. Immediately, however, there are simple steps that can be taken by a Judge to improve the accessibility and technology of their Section of Court. It would cost less than $300 a year for my courtroom to establish its own website with a public calendar that can be accessed by anyone. That same website could be password accessible for attorneys registered with the Court so they can securely email filings directly to the Court. The Court would then ensure those motions are filed in the Criminal Clerk of Court’s official records.”

This article originally published in the June 16, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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