Page 1


Saturday MARCH 24

2018 Fourth Circuit Judge Election



Indivisible New Orleans is an organization of over 3,000 members that promotes civic and community engagement through grassroots activism that centers on inclusivity and intersectional justice. We resist efforts to erode progressive momentum and the institutional framework of our democracy by amplifying the voices of those most impacted by these threats, supporting the work of established activist organizations, and demanding accountability from elected officials.

The purpose of this voting guide is to inform our membership and the general public on the views of the candidates for 4th Circuit Court of Appeals as they prepare to cast their ballot in this important election. Louisiana has five courts of appeal organized into “circuits” that each serve a group of parishes. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is located in New Orleans and has jurisdiction over cases that originate in Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes. The judges who sit on the court of appeals are important levers of power in the fight against mass incarceration due to their ability to uphold or overturn decisions in most jury trial criminal cases. It is important that we as citizens elect judges who will ensure that every citizen receives a fair trial. For this reason, our questions centered on how the candidates would ensure equity during their time on the court. Below you will find the candidates’ responses. They were not edited for content, grammar, spelling, etc and are published exactly as they were submitted to ensure accurate presentation of the candidates’ views.

We hope that you will find this guide useful, and we encourage all New Orleans to excerize the right to vote on March 24! * Early Voting is available March 10 to March 20. *

Fair Sentencing What sort of circumstances would merit departing from sentencing guidelines in order to give a lesser sentence, when legally allowable to do so?

dale atkins: The Canons of the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit me from answering this question with any specificity. However, in the federal system the U.S. Sentencing Commission created by Congress has established guidelines in order to try to minimize disparity in certain situations. These guidelines are only advisory and allow for upward or downward departure based upon additional established guidelines. Various states have also experimented with guidelines and the American Law Institute and the American Bar Association have made recommendations in this regard. In Louisiana, the legislature has formed a Felony Class System Task Force to review and make recommendations regarding felony sentencing and guidelines. I assume the legislature will address this in this summer’s session.

robin pittman: A circumstance that comes to mind is in the case of a multiple bill hearing. I would look into any mitigating factors presented to the Court by defense such as personal background, education, any substance abuse issues, and criminal history, to name a few, to determine if I should depart from the sentencing guidelines as allowed under the law.

Equal Access to Quality Representation 1. Should the availability of pretrial release be contingent on wealth (money bond)?

Dale Atkins: The availability of pretrial release should not be contingent on wealth or the ability to post bond. The purpose of bail is to ensure an individual will show up to their court hearing(s) and should not be used as a punitive measure to keep an individual in prison. Furthermore, an individual should not be held in jail due to excessive bail amounts and an inability to pay.

robin pittman: No. Pretrial release should never be contigent on wealth. Our Court, Criminal District Court, has developed a Pretrial Services Program that looks at factors such as the seriousness of the crime, criminal history, ability to pay, and other risk assessment factors to determine a person’s ability to be released on their own recognicance.

2. Generally, the State (the District Attorney’s Office) has the resources to take writs (appeals) on every adverse ruling, while the defense, with fewer resources, has to be more selective. In addition, the defense is forced to respond to all of the State's writs. How would you address this imbalance?

Dale Atkins: In order to address this imbalance, I would follow the guidance of the Louisiana Supreme Court as stated in the Herlitz Construction Case 396 So. 2d 878 (1981). The Supreme Court stated as a general policy a Court of Appeal has plenary power to exercise supervisory jurisdiction over District Courts and may do so at anytime. However, as it relates to writs, the court stated as a general policy supervisory jurisdiction should only be exercised if irreparable harm will ensue. Appellate courts generally do not exercise supervisory jurisdiction if the exception may be reurged on appeal. Additionally, this general policy should be applied on a case-by-case basis and not mechanically.

robin pittman: If the issues are clear and do not necessarily require a response by defense, then I would address the imbalance by pointing out to the other judges of the Court of Appeal that a response should not automatically be required by the defense, which in turn would assist the defense with the saving of resources.

Protection from unreasonable search and seizure Fourth Amendment enforcement (unreasonable searches and seizures) has weakened nationally since the days of the Warren Court (SCOTUS). Modern interpretation gives fewer protections and interprets the 4th Amendment more loosely. Where do you stand?

Dale Atkins: Due to the possibility of pending litigition, the Canons of the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct prohibit me from answering this question with any specificity. However, a state appellate court is bound to follow the law established by the state supreme court and in situations of federal constitutional issues, the law established by SCOTUS. To the extent that an issue of federally protected rights is before the court, all of its judges are bound by established law. Balancing important issues of government intrusion with legitimate governmental interests is extremely important to our citizens.

robin pittman: The protections under the Fourth Amendment have already been interpreted and I plan to enforce all of those protections granted to us as citizens of the United States.

March 2018 Indivisilbe NOLA Voting Guide  
March 2018 Indivisilbe NOLA Voting Guide