Winn Parish District Judge Request Additional Funds to Keep Court Operating

In a letter to the Winn Parish Police Jury (Jury) dated May 27th, 2020, Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Jacque Derr (Court) asked the Jury to commit to paying court expenses the Court cannot pay after June. 

In a Special Called Meeting of the Jury held on June 23rd, 2020, the Court provided a detailed list of its monthly expenses, monthly income ,and its deficiency for June. 

Net Payroll (4 Employees, does not include secretary
court reporter, court attendants)
Health Insurance Liability$4,143.56
Payroll Tax Liability (Federal)$1872.24
Unemployment Tax Liability$59.79
Retirement Liability$2519.38
La Dept of Revenue Liability$430.02
Verizon Wireless$140.00
AT&T (one line and one fax line)$220.38
Suddenlink (internet)$152.45
Office Supplies$333.65
Library (paperback books necessary for court)$300.00
Dues and Registration$81.25
Total Monthly Expenses$18,708.61
Monthly Expenses for Court (does not include employees paid by Jury)
Secretary’ Voucher$5013.72
Bench Warrant Recall Fees$525.00
2% Bond Fee$976.50
Civil Filing Fees$230.00
Settlement of Fines$690.00
Court’s Estimated Income Based on Most Recent Collections

The monthly income for the Court varies from month to month depending on the civil filing fees collected by the Winn Parish Clerk of Court, criminal fines and court costs collected, bench warrant recall fees collected, and 2% bond fee collected by the Winn Parish Sheriff. The secretary’s voucher remains the same each month, provided funds are available. According to the minutes of the meeting, the Court’s other revenue source is the Criminal Court Fund, which is the settlement of fines paid to the Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff’s office and District Attorney’s office each get 12%, with 76% going to the Police Jury for the Criminal Court Fund. That fund is shared by the Judge and the District Attorney. Per Louisiana Revised Statutes, the Jury also pays the following expenses not included in the tables above: court reporter, juror & witness fees, and court attendants (bailiffs & clerks) totaling $75,501 per year. Those items are in addition to providing an office in the Courthouse, a Courtroom accessible to the public, equipment, furniture, and janitorial services pursuant to statute. 

Monthly Expenses for the Court$18,702.36
Estimated Monthly Income for Court Based on
Most Recent Collections (could increase or decrease)
Amount Court Request from Jury$11,267.14
Recap of Expenses, Estimated Income and Amount Request

In the recording of the 23rd meeting Judge Derr stated “I just want y’all to understand that if you can’t fund me the Court is fixing to shut down and the jail is fixing to fill up” he went on to say “that’s not a threat, that’s just what’s fixing to happen.” “It’s going to be a mess, but I don’t intend to work my head off trying to keep the court running with one employee, I can’t do that.” Jury President Josh McAllister pointed out that $11,267.14 is more than the Jury pays their entire staff per month and that the jury had to layoff people when they took office to save on expenses. McAllister then asked the Judge, “does it have to be $11,267.14, or that’s it?” The Judge responded, “If I can’t have some assurance that I’m going to be able to pay my people, then I’m going to have to send them home. And, if I can’t have them, there’s not going to be any court.” Juror Author Robinson asked the Judge if during the time the court has been shut down, did your people work, did they not work, and draw a full salary, or were they laid off and drew unemployment? The Judge responded, “we worked, they worked…we only worked three days a week because of the fact we couldn’t have court, but we worked at the same salaries that we had.” The judge warned the Jury “I’m just telling you that if we can’t operate the court, we can’t convict people, we can’t get them off of you due to the jail situation, and it could possibly end up that if we can’t operate, criminals will be released because of our failure to prosecute. I’m not threatening, I’m just telling you what you may end up looking at and depending on who’s listening you may end up getting blamed for… I’ll wait for your decision. I think I know what it is and that’s most unfortunate…I just hate to be put in a position to sue like I did the other time.”

McAllister responded, “…We respect you and your court our problem is finding the money. That’s just not sustainable for us. Our legal counsel has advised that we have met our obligation. The Legislative Auditor has projected that the Jury will lose $200,000 this year and $400,000 next year, so it may be a case of who goes bankrupt us or you or all of us.”

The Judge concluded the meeting by telling the Jury “what I’m hearing is that y’all are not going to have the money to do it, I don’t know what else to say, but I’ve got to know something by July 1st because July 1st everyone’s going to go home and the Court’s going to shut down because I can’t operate.”

Juror Author Robinson asked the Judge if he could “cut his crew” the Judge responded, “no, I cannot…no…no…like I said, I feel like I’ve cut everything I can and everything that I intend to, I’m not going to apologize for salaries. I work for the people; they actually elected me.”

The Jury recessed and then resumed the meeting. This time, including the Jury’s legal counsel Chris Nevils. After much discussion and in agreement with their legal counsel, the Jury decided to decline the Court’s request for additional funds. McAllister concluded the meeting by stating that he feels like the Jury has met it’s obligations already.

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