NEW ORLEANS – Today, Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams, joined by First Assistant District Attorney (FA) Ned McGowan and Screening Chief Andre Gaudin, Jr., stood with Attorney Morris Bart and lawyers from his office to announce a partnership aimed at supporting the Screening Division’s work to manage a high influx of cases, specifically cases involving illegal firearms. These volunteer Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) are supporting the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office’s (OPDA) efforts to rid New Orleans of illegal firearms.
“As my office remains committed to identifying innovative ways to fight back against violent crime in New Orleans, we continue to search for resources and partnerships that will help us manage the high volume of cases facing our office; this includes a strategic partnership with Morris Bart,” said DA Williams. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an enormous spike in the number of illegal firearms purchases. Even a small fraction of those firearms being left in cars, and subject to auto burglaries, has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of firearms on the streets of New Orleans. For the past few weeks, Morris Bart and his team of 6 lawyers have begun volunteering as ADAs supporting our Screening Division with the rapid screening of Illegal Possession of Firearm cases. Through due diligence ensuring that each of these volunteer ADAs is aware of the values and mission of my office and that there are no ethics violations or conflicts of interest, we are showing the power of an all-hands-on-deck approach to stem violence in this city. Morris Bart and these volunteer ADAs are a force multiplier in our work; I am appreciative of all their work and look forward to their continued impact.”
Attorney Morris Bart said, “First, I would like to thank DA Jason Williams for allowing this unique partnership to take place so that my team of lawyers can assist him in his very important job. I am very proud to be assisting the DA’s Office. It is my hope and dream that our efforts will help improve public safety in the city I love, New Orleans. My team of lawyers will be performing all of our services on a volunteer basis without any charge to the City or State. We will also be performing these duties as fully commissioned and trained Assistant District Attorneys, not as private attorneys. Many attorneys on my team have vast experience in criminal law. Our efforts in screening routine cases will provide a better opportunity for full-time ADAs to focus on their serious cases and trials. Lastly, I want to assure the people of New Orleans that we take this responsibility very seriously and will screen cases assigned to us properly and correctly.”
OPDA is not outsourcing work, but we have commissioned volunteer ADAs to support the office. These volunteer ADAs come with significant criminal law experience including two attorneys with decades of criminal law experience, one attorney who served as a prosecutor at OPDA, and an attorney who clerked for a criminal court judge.
Working closely with Screening Chief Gaudin, Jr. and Screening ADAs, the volunteer ADAs will be tasked with 1.) screening cases involving the illegal possession of firearms including reviewing all relative evidence and information, and 2.) making recommendations to the Screening Division. Following their recommendation, a Screening ADA will make a final review before officially moving the case forward.
Each volunteer ADA has undergone significant training including 1.) shadowing FA McGowen, Screening Chief Gaudin, Jr., and Screening ADAs, 2.) receiving education in the relevant legal standards and practices for screening cases, and 3.) using OPDA’s case management system, PBK, to ensure the streamlining of information.
OPDA Screening Chief Andre Gaudin, Jr. said, “As the Chief of Screening, intimately understanding all of the challenges associated with screening the volume of cases moving through the DA’s Office, this support is a game changer in this office. This increases our efficiency and helps us to be able to get cases ready for trial more rapidly which helps to secure justice for victims and families. Thank you to Morris Bart and all of the volunteers ADAs for supporting the work of OPDA and Screening Division.”
OPDA continues to actively recruit ADAs and other staff to support the work of OPDA. For a list of positions available, please visit www.orleansda.com/about/employment/.
To learn more, please visit orleansda.com.