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Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine "Kitty" Kimball Addresses Joint Session of the Louisiana Legislature

Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine “Kitty” Kimball addressed the legislative joint session of the House and Senate on Tuesday, May 3, 2011. During her remarks, Kimball offered insight on the state’s judiciary branch as well as Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. 

In her first speech to legislators since suffering a stroke more than a year ago, Kimball began by thanking lawmakers for their words of encouragement, support and prayers during her time of recovery after suffering a stroke in late 2009. She soon turned her attention to the current state of juvenile justice in Louisiana and her insight on the path forward. Emphasizing her direct interest and involvement in the reform of the juvenile justice system and programs around the state, the chief justice stated she simply could not pass up the opportunity to speak to the joint session on the issue. She first asked for the legislature’s “continued support and assistance for our children.”

“We have come a long way in our juvenile justice system,” said Kimball. “From 2001’s ranking by the New York Times as one of the worst systems in the country, to today’s reality of international foundations such as MacArthur, Casey and others investing millions of dollars in our state, because they see potential and willingness for reform.”

“While we have made dramatic improvements in how we treat the juvenile offender, we should also be concerned with how we treat the juvenile victim,” said Kimball. “We need to be concerned with our state’s youngest victims. Those who are abused and neglected, sometimes by their own parents and relatives.”

The chief justice explained that on any given day there are close to 4,500 abused and neglected children in Louisiana’s child welfare system. Kimball said the state’s judiciary has acknowledged their role in the effort to help such a vulnerable population, partnering with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services and other partners to try to improve outcomes. She explained that the Louisiana Supreme Court recently participated in the Child and Family Service Review, which is a federal level review of all aspects of the state’s child welfare system, including the legal system. The state’s judiciary also actively participates in the Child Welfare Program Improvement Plan in collaboration with Louisiana DCFS. 

This past year, Kimball said her office has worked collaboratively with multiple stakeholders toward the creation of a Louisiana Center for Excellence for Children and Families. The goal of the center is to promote programs, practices and services available for at-risk children while fostering formalized collaborative relationships with key stakeholders across the three branches of government. 

“The center is yet another demonstration of our recognition that it is our collective responsibility that we, in all of our roles—whether judicial, executive, legislative, public, private, local or state—should apply what we’ve learned, and base our policies, procedures and budgets on what has shown to improve outcomes for our children,” said Kimball.