Rapides DA weighing options after state Supreme Court denies writ application

Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell (Source: KALB)

RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - Rapides Parish District Attorney Phillip Terrell said his office is weighing its options after the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a writ application on Monday filed by the DA's office tied to a lengthy battle between the DA and the police jury over the DA's forgiveness program called pretrial intervention (PTI).

That program allows the DA's office to offer forgiveness to those facing charges in exchange for programming requirements and fees that go directly to the DA's office, circumventing the criminal court fund. The criminal court fund helps pay for programs around the parish.

Earlier this year, the police jury voted to slash the DA's budget by $700,000 because the parish was facing a deficit in its general fund that the parish claimed was tied to that program.

The DA's office pushed for a civil mandamus, which is an order from the court to require the police jury to reasonably fund the DA's budget. But, an ad hoc judge in Rapides Parish said that wasn't the proper legal vehicle for the matter.

So, the DA's office wanted to get another opinion, trying to take it all the way up to the state Supreme Court. On Monday, the Supreme Court denied the DA's application.

"We have not decided as to whether or not we're going to seek a rehearing or ask for arguments in front of the court," Terrell told us. "Essentially, we have not gotten to court yet. We have not had any hearing on the merits. That's unfortunate for my office because it has caused us to not be able to replace people who have left for various reasons. [...] Each of the assistant district attorneys, myself, I cut our salaries 10-percent. And, we're looking to have to make cuts with the support staff. Nobody can afford the cut, but we felt the support staff - we really hated to cut those ladies and gentlemen - because they don't make a lot of money."

Terrell said a decision will be made by the end of the week about the next steps.

"It's time to move forward and we intend to do that," he said. "Start with discovery and move the matter to conclusion as rapidly as possible."