Finally, Some Order in the Court
The New Orleans criminal justice system, practically paralyzed after Hurricane Katrina, is inching its way to recovery. The Orleans Parish Criminal District Court welcomed jurors back last week for the first time since Katrina ravaged the city and flooded the courthouse. For the past nine months, local judges held hearings in the federal courthouse, but the lingering effects of Katrina had made jury trials impossible. Despite millions spent on repairs, the recovery is far from over. Judges now face a backlog of thousands of cases, often with evidence destroyed and witnesses scattered. The local public defender's office--which represents about 85 percent of the city's defendants--has hired several new attorneys but is still a fraction of its prehurricane size. "At least it's a start," said Chris Maurice, an investigator with the public defender. "We just got the phones working again."
Declaring a Major--in High School
Florida's teenagers need to grow up. At least that seems to be the thinking behind the education bill Gov. Jeb Bush signed last week in Davie. The A++ Plan, a follow-up to his A+ Plan of seven years ago, requires that incoming high school students declare a major starting in 2007. Supporters say the plan will keep students interested and allow them to try potential careers. "You've got kids who wander aimlessly for 13 years. It's like an eternal childhood, and they don't have to think about the future," said Cheri Pierson Yecke, Florida's chancellor for K-12 public schools. Majors will range from car repair to history. Democratic critics of the plan claim the changes won't help raise Florida's low high school graduation rate. And Melissa Gleissner, a Southwest Ranches, Fla., mother of children going into third, sixth, and ninth grades next year, said she did not think her children should face the pressure of choosing a major. "How are you telling a ninth grader, 'You should know what you want to do'?" she asked.
Standing Firm in the Desert
When Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona vetoed a controversial immigration package, State Republican Rep. Russell Pearce found the date fitting. "It's perfect; 6/6/6, the devil rises up again," Pearce said. Whether you believe Napolitano is an angel or the devil down in Phoenix, it's hard to argue with Pearce's use of the word again. The governor has vetoed 115 bills since taking office in 2003, breaking a state record. None of her vetoes have been overturned. This year, she has averaged one veto about every five days. The latest bill would have penalized employers who hire illegal immigrants and made it a crime for those immigrants to be in Arizona. In a letter to legislators, Napolitano said she vetoed the bill because most state law enforcement officials opposed it and because it was too lenient, allowing employers to escape punishment if they fired an illegal immigrant within 10 business days of being caught. She called the measure "weak and ineffective." State Republicans say they will use her immigration vetoes against her in this fall's gubernatorial election, but polls give Napolitano a large lead over any of her prospective Republican rivals.