“I love our city and I am raising children here, so I find the recent increase in violent criminal activity to be particularly disturbing,” says Morris Bart attorney, Darryl Dungan. “When I heard of our law firm’s assistance to the District Attorney, I immediately volunteered so that I can, hopefully, be part of the solution.”
Darryl is one of five lawyers to volunteer in the headline-making partnership between Morris Bart and the District Attorney’s office. In a city known as much for colorful beads as it is for its ever-growing crime rate, it’s no wonder the District Attorney’s office has seen an unprecedented caseload come their way.
“New Orleans is experiencing a huge increase in violent crime and in order to improve our system, we need to think outside the box,” says Jordan Lieberman, another volunteer attorney from Morris Bart. In law school, Jordan clerked for The Honorable Camille Buras in Criminal District Court and briefly defended misdemeanor and felony cases as a student practitioner through the Loyola Law Clinic, so this partnership makes him feel right at home. “I’ve seen both sides of this system and I have so much respect for those who work within it. Hopefully, our job provides some relief to the District Attorney’s office.”
Esmeralda Graham, a supervising attorney with a strong criminal justice background, was one of the first people Mr. Bart brought the idea to. “He asked me whether or not we could take on the work, and after meeting with him and District Attorney Jason Williams, we were able to carve out a specific task our attorneys could do that makes a difference for them.”
The task at hand? Screening misdemeanor gun charges. Morris Bart attorneys are reviewing arrest reports pro bono and verifying those facts against the New Orleans Police Department’s body worn cameras. Based on that, they’re recommending whether or not the DA should accept the charges filed by the NOPD to begin to prosecute the individual case.
“I’m really pleased that I was asked to help with the DA screening project,” says Morris Bart attorney and former Orleans prosecutor, Stephanie Roberts. “I remember how overwhelming the caseload could be at times.”
She’s seconded by Morris Bart attorney James Mason, who agrees that “Screening misdemeanor gun charges will allow the District Attorney’s office to direct their time to other tasks.”
DA Jason Williams spoke of those same sentiments in a joint press conference with Morris Bart. “As everyone is keenly aware, the city of New Orleans is in the midst of an unprecedented crime surge. This has led to an extremely active docket that keeps our prosecutors incredibly busy.”
When asked by reporters during the press conference why partner with Morris Bart on this? Williams had their answer right away. “Why Buddy? Because Buddy stepped up.”