The New Orleans Parish Criminal District Court will close down indefinitely unless the city and the sheriff continue to provide front door security at the entrance to 2700 Tulane Ave., the building's chief judge said in a letter to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. The courthouse at the corner of Tulane and Broad hosts at least 1,000 people daily, including about 260 jurors.
"The situation is critical," Judge Julian Parker wrote in a two-page letter to Landrieu about Sheriff Marlin Gusman's decision to stop providing security at the courthouse's entrance. Gusman's office says it cannot afford to staff the entrance with deputies, who spend long hours at the metal detector and X-ray machine, and informing visitors that they cannot bring in their cell phones. Deputies will continue to monitor each of the 13 sections of court, the sheriff said, and the South Broad Street entrance to the building, which is open to jurors and anyone with special needs. About 15 years ago, deputies were stationed only in individual courtrooms. They would check visitors at the courtroom doors with a metal-detecting wand, but the Tulane Avenue entrance at the top of the steps was open to the public. It can't go back to those days, Parker told the mayor.
"Without the Tulane Avenue corridor, persons will be subject to standing outside of the courthouse for hours at a time," Parker wrote. "This will cause the efficiency of each court's docket to be compromised."
Parker asked Landrieu to provide "immediate emergency funding" for three off-duty New Orleans police officers to work the Tulane Avenue entrance starting today at 8 a.m.
"In this post-911 era, a failure to provide security in a public building will put the citizens in grave danger," Parker wrote. "Therefore, I will have no alternative but to close the court effective Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. The court will remain closed until the sheriff and the city can come to a resolution."