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Louisiana Conservatives Aim To Rein In 'Rogue' District Attorneys

Officials in Louisiana are proposing measures to limit district attorneys' authority, following similar moves by GOP leaders in other states with liberal cities, the Louisiana Illuminator reports. Republican Gov. Jeff Landry is advocating for a constitutional convention where, according to his own advisory committee, district attorneys’ broad authority over criminal prosecutions and grand juries in their judicial districts would be up for debate. At the same time, state lawmakers are weighing a separate constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 122, to allow the Louisiana Legislature and a not-yet-created state commission to overrule district attorneys when they refuse to prosecute and give control over cases to the state attorney general.  The proposals reflect those seen in other Southern states where Republican state officials have sought to undercut or remove so-called “progressive” district attorneys in overwhelmingly Democratic areas. Those district attorneys, often representing larger cities, have taken policy positions law-and-order Republicans find offensive.

Democratic district attorneys aren’t the only ones worried about proposals to undercut prosecutorial authority. The Louisiana District Attorneys Association, made up mostly of elected Republicans, came out strongly against Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe's amendment which he said was created to address crime concerns. Over a dozen GOP district attorneys showed up in person to object to the legislation when it was debated Tuesday in a Senate committee.  “I think we value our autonomy,” said Scott Perrilloux, the GOP prosecutor for Livingston, St. Helena and Tangipahoa parishes. “I’ve recused myself in many cases. … We’re not above the law.”  Morris’ amendment is expected to come up for a committee vote next week, but has a few more hurdles to clear before it can become law. The Louisiana House and Senate each would have to pass the amendment with a two-thirds vote, and then voters would have to approve it on the November ballot. Then, Landry and state lawmakers could easily water down district attorneys’ powers in 2025 because the provisions would no longer enjoy the constitutional protections they have now. Whether the larger constitutional convention Landry is pushing will happen also remains to be seen.


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