The “exponential increase” in guns on the streets has led the Orleans Parish district attorney’s office to draft Morris Bart’s civil law firm for free help in screening cases for prosecution.
“When you’re the murder capital of the world, you have to start thinking differently,” District Attorney Jason Williams said Tuesday in announcing the unusual partnership. “As opposed to pointing fingers, [Bart] saw a need.”
A team of at least six lawyers affiliated with Bart, a personal injury lawyer regionally famous for his prolific advertising, are reviewing police reports on misdemeanor weapons arrests and making non-binding recommendations on whether prosecutors should file formal charges, Williams said.
Hoping to curb violence
Williams said he hopes the screening assistance helps his prosecutors move faster through those cases and, eventually, curb shootings and other violent crimes.
In a city where the number of murders has been increasing for more than three years, Bart said his firm won’t be paid for its public work. Instead, he said of the partnership, “I wanted to step up. I wanted to do something very meaningful.”
Dane Ciolino, a professor of legal ethics at Loyola University, called the arrangement “unusual but not unethical.” And he hailed the partnership: “Anything you can do to get the community and lawyers in the community more involved in public safety – it’s a good thing.”
Gun cases dismissed
The announcement came two weeks after one of Williams’ division heads, Emily Maw, unilaterally dismissed gun complaints against nine people in Magistrate Court on Mardi Gras. Williams has called her decisions “improper and unrepresentative of office policy.” But he denied Tuesday that her actions prompted him to sign up Bart’s firm for help.
Bart was the first Louisiana lawyer to start advertising, in 1980, three years after the U.S. Supreme Court made the practice legal. His TV ads and billboards used catchphrases — “One call, that’s all” and, in the personal computer age, “One click, that’s it” — to make him a household name and a marketing model for many other personal injury lawyers.=
Although his firm handles civil matters, the DA’s office said one of the lawyers on the team is a former prosecutor. Bart, whom Williams called “our newest force multiplier,” said several others have extensive experience in criminal defense work.
Williams said the Bart lawyers began work a few weeks ago. Bart said they are commissioned as assistant district attorneys.
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