Extensive budget shortfall leaving some district attorneys with tough decisions to make
GONZALES - With the Louisiana Supreme Court saying trials postponed until at least June 30, tough decisions are having to be made as budgets are coming up short for district attorneys around the state.
The situation in the 23rd Judicial District is not unique. Most district attorneys offices are funded in part through some fees that are charged through the court system. Since courts have been closed, District Attorney Ricky Babin said his office has closed the first quarter of the year nearly a quarter of a million dollars short. The figure does not look any better, as courts were shut down the entire month of April and what might be part of May.
"We are expecting it to hit up to a 50-percent reduction," Babin said.
That's a big loss for the office that has a $5 million budget. The 23rd JDC employs 21 prosecutors, three investigators and 60 other staff members that handle the civil, criminal appeals, child protection services, juvenile cases, misdemeanors and felony cases. It covers Ascension, St. James and Assumption parishes.
"I don't have any fat to trim," Babin said. "Everyone here handles multiple divisions, multiple things and will have to handle it the best we can. Everything is on the table."
That could mean possible layoffs depending on how dire things could get. However, Babin said layoffs would be the last possible resort.
"There's a lot of people suffering economically, business people," Babin said. "A lot of people were laid off. We are in the same boat. The real concern to us is the work still has to be done."
Right now, only emergency hearings are being held for things like custody issues and protective orders. In addition to the money concerns, there's also a major backlog in cases.
"It's stacking up a lot," Babin said.