Arthur Hunter represents a real change for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office. In his twenty-three years as a judge in Criminal District Court, Hunter has gained the reputation of a fair and courageous judge.
While on the bench, Judge Hunter proactively advocated for equal funding for public defenders and expanded programs for criminal defendants. Nothing exemplifies this better than the work he did immediately following Hurricane Katrina. While the city’s court system was still attempting to rebound from the devastating storm, Hunter led the charge to protect the rights of citizens affected by the malfunctioning criminal justice system. He challenged the inequity of the way the city funds the then-titled Orleans Indigent Defender Program (OIDP). As a result, the Orleans Public Defenders of today are one of the most prestigious public defender boards in the nation.
Judge Hunter declared Louisiana’s notorious “crime against nature” law unconstitutional, as it unfairly targeted African Americans and transgendered people.
He was the first trial judge in Louisiana to order a wrongly convicted defendant to receive compensation. In 2017, Judge Hunter ordered the State to pay $180,000 to Kia Stewart, who spent nearly a decade in prison until his murder sentence was dismissed in 2015. The State of Louisiana, under Attorney General Jeff Landry, fought against his right to receive compensation; but Judge Hunter was steadfast.
Hunter co-founded the Orleans Parish Re-Entry Court, which was designed to reduce recidivism. The program partnered with Delgado Forward to assist with job training and employment skills for non-violent offenders. Hunter also created a program with Louisiana State Penitentiary that provides GED classes and job training for inmates serving shorter sentences. In doing so he has gained the respect of even his most frequent critics.
Hunter’s approach to the criminal justice system is smart, not punitive. It is this approach that will help to move the District Attorney’s office in a more progressive direction.
Hunter has vowed not to prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases and will not seek monetary bonds for individuals who are not deemed dangerous or a flight risk. Currently, marijuana possession is still cited as a fine, and working class people are stuck footing the bill. Monetary bonds often keep innocent people imprisoned for months – simply because they cannot afford bond. This process enriches only the bail bondsmen and keeps New Orleans residents in increasing poverty.
The most bold of his progressive policy proposals is the use of specialty courts. Hunter plans to expand the use of the Mental Health Court and create a Crisis Stabilization Unit to treat non-violent offenders with mental health issues.
Hunter also plans to create a Special Crimes Unit to identify and prosecute major drug gangs operating in the city. He plans to take a tough stance against hate crimes, domestic violence, and sex crimes with a Special Victims Unit dedicated to prosecuting these offenses and securing the safety of the city of New Orleans.
Hunter is exactly what the city needs in a district attorney. His reforms will make the city smart on crime and help to improve efficiency at Criminal District Court. Hunter’s plans offer help to those who need it – and punishment for those that deserve it. We simply cannot afford more of the same hard-headed “tough on crime” philosophy of the past. November 3rd could be the start of a new chapter for New Orleans – and Judge Hunter promises to help us turn that page, after over a decade of prosecutorial misconduct and criminalization of poverty.
It is for these reasons that Big Easy Magazine endorses Judge Arthur Hunter (Ret.) for Orleans Parish District Attorney.
Editor’s note: Read our interview with Arthur Hunter here.