June 15, 2023


Transparency Is Alive In Caddo Juvenile Court

When retired Judge James E. Stewart was elected and took on the role as Caddo Parish District Attorney in late 2015, he recognized some changes were needed in Caddo’s Juvenile Court proceedings.

Stewart discovered the Louisiana Victim’s Rights Law was being ignored, following a complaint that the mother of a 4-year-old rape victim was ejected from the courtroom by a juvenile court judge during the trial of the rapist.

After conferring with juvenile court staff and the Shreveport Police Officers Association about the treatment of victims and law enforcement officers at juvenile court, Stewart notified juvenile court judges that the Victim’s Rights Law would be enforced by his office.

The Victim’s Rights Law allows victims to be present in court at every stage of juvenile court proceedings and the right to speak to the defendant before sentencing. Investigating law enforcement officers are also allowed to be in court for all proceedings, including sentencing.

Stewart has also ended old juvenile court policies that prevent convicted juveniles – or their parents – from making monetary restitution to victims.

Assistant District Attorney Janet Silvie, and Juvenile District Attorney Investigator Mark Masters have been in the juvenile section since 2011 and 2014. Both recall that before Stewart, neither victims nor law enforcement were allowed in the juvenile court courtroom.

The Assistant District Attorneys not only prosecuted the cases, but were the only resource to contact victims or law enforcement regarding what occurred in court. Today, the law enforcement case agents are allowed to remain in Caddo Juvenile Court during the entirety of the trial and sentencing process. Prior to Stewart, they were only allowed in court for their portion of the testimony.

Stewart also expanded the Victims Assistance Program (VAP) to the juvenile court. Where the program was once only available to adult court victims, it’s now offered to juvenile court victims as well. Two (2) Victim Assistants hired under Stewart are assigned exclusively to juvenile court victims.

“These VAPS make sure victims are made aware of each court proceeding in advance and they are welcome to attend,” says Silvie. “They also ensure that the victims are allowed to speak or give a written statement to the juvenile judge before sentencing, and that restitution to the victim is made a part of the sentence.”

Victims who cannot make it to juvenile court for a hearing due to their job or other issues are now even allowed to observe court or participate via Zoom technology.

Stewart, unlike any other district attorney in Louisiana, regularly issues press releases and a monthly recap to the media for promulgation with the names of violent juveniles in adult and juvenile court who are charged with violent offenses, transferred to adult court or sentenced for violent offenses. These news releases and the monthly recap, which include the names of the judge and the sentence given by the judge for violent offenses, are released directly to the public as well as through the District Attorney’s social media, including Facebook and the Caddo DA’s website at www.caddoda.com.

Again, District Attorney Stewart unlike his predecessors- has established reciprocal open line of communication with our neighboring parish district attorneys and juvenile judges regarding receiving the criminal history information needed to properly sentence juveniles who commit crimes in their non-home parish.  This information sharing serves to protect the public in all Northwest Louisiana parishes.

“These changes made at our juvenile court were essential to make our office the most transparent, victim-friendly, law enforcement-friendly juvenile District Attorney’s office in the state,” Stewart says. “And despite whatever ignorance is said from outsiders who have no idea nor have asked what is going on in our part of the state, we will continue in these efforts.”

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a crime committed by a juvenile and need assistance, please contact the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Juvenile Division at (318)429-7647.  More information can be found about the Division on the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s website listed above.