Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro announced last week his office could lose staff as early as January if it doesn't receive an additional $1.4 million in the 2015 city budget. Cannizzaro said he needs at least $313,000 to cover early 2015, with another $300,000 for pay raises.
To make up for that potential loss in funding, Cannizzaro suggested that the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) issue traffic tickets under state law, rather than municipal violations, which would send $20 from each ticket to the DA — a method practiced by other parishes, Cannizzaro said, adding his office is "more than willing" to train NOPD officers to start doing that. (Asked by District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry why New Orleans handles traffic violations that way, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman said, "I'm not in charge of NOPD, so I can't answer that.").
Cannizzaro also asked the council to move $835,000 budgeted for traffic violations through the city attorney's office into the DA's office, which would then hire five prosecutors to handle the caseloads currently handled by 14 city attorneys.
The office "is in a worse position than 2014," Cannizzaro said, adding that without a budget tweak, his office may have to reduce staffing by 10 to 20 percent next year. He also requested 4 percent pay raises for staff, who have not seen a raise in 12 months. (There are 83 assistant district attorneys, with starting salaries of $45,000.) Without more money, the office "will make some very difficult choices that will undoubtedly have an effect on public safety," he said.
The DA's office is allotted $6.5 million in Mayor Mitch Landrieu's proposed 2015 budget. Landrieu's proposed DA budget includes $205,000 dedicated to the Innocence Project, which reviews completed cases to help exonerate people who were found guilty. — ALEX WOODWARD