Friday, Clerk of Criminal Court Arthur Morrell announced he would begin closing the Property and Evidence rooms on Tuesday and Thursday each week as a cost cutting measure.
Morrell said, in a statement, that City Hall is preventing him from filling 14 vacancies on his staff.
“My staff and I work hard every day to provide the services needed for the Court. It is unfortunate that City Hall does not consider these positions essential to the smooth operation of the criminal justice system. We regret any inconveniences this closing will cause,” Morrell’s statement reads.
The Property Room is used to store evidence for the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said the move would have a debilitating effect on the judicial system. Cannizzaro also said, as relayed through a spokesman, that he expects the Evidence and Property rooms to be open five days a week, period.
Morrell’s move is just the latest in an ongoing debate with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office over funding. Previously, Morrell indicated that at least one courtroom might be forced to close due to a lack of staff. So far, that hasn’t happened.
As for the mayor’s office, Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin released a statement on the latest issue.
“The Clerk’s office has repeatedly demonstrated that its staffing pattern is inefficient. The City has offered to help the Clerk identify ways to save money and cut costs on several occasions and he has rejected those offers repeatedly. Taxpayer’s deserve access to their government, and the Clerk’s decision today will limit key services,” Kopplin’s statement reads.
The NOPD also has a room to store evidence. Friday afternoon, a spokesman for the department said that Morrell’s announcement would have no affect on how the NOPD operated its own evidence room.