November 21, 2016
Judge Ramy Djerassi (L ’82) of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas shares details about his jurisdiction’s work on helping offenders reenter society.
Judge Fredericka Wicker (L ’77) of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal discusses Louisiana’s efforts to improve sentencing procedures and reduce prison populations.
Inspired by another Tulane Law graduate, Judge Ramy Djerassi (L ’82) of Philadelphia got involved in improving procedures for helping offenders reenter society and avoid returning to prison.
In November, he brought his experiences to New Orleans, leading a roundtable of Louisiana judges and officials sharing ideas about ways to reduce prison populations and the number of repeat offenders.
During a two-day stint as a “Judge in Residence,” Djerassi, who sits on the Court of Common Pleas, also talked with students about commercial and criminal litigation and judicial clerkships.
“I wanted to reconnect,” said Djerassi, a longtime supporter of Tulane Law. “I had fabulous years here and wanted to know what it felt like to be at Tulane Law School again.”
The roundtable was designed to stimulate a collaboration on an issue that’s become a national movement, he said: “Sharing of ideas is crucial to the success of reducing recidivism.”
Djerassi said he was “totally impressed” by a program that Judge Luis Felipe Restrepo (L ’86), who’s now on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was instrumental in starting in Philadelphia. That reentry court assists offenders released on probation with education, training, employment and other needs. By successfully completing the program, they can reduce their probation time.
Djerassi said he helped develop an online directory of services, including housing, employment and other providers to assist defense lawyers in guiding clients who’ve finished serving their time. He also championed a fledgling program for real-time monitoring of probationers so that when they miss appointments, weeks don’t pass before authorities intervene to keep them on track.
Louisiana officials, including Judge Fredericka Wicker (L ’77), of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal, recounted the progress made and continuing challenges faced by the state, which has a prison population of 38,000, half of them housed in local facilities and 20 percent of them elderly.
Participants came from across the criminal justice system, including Judges William Knight, chief of 22nd Judicial District Court, Arthur Hunter of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court and Scott Schlegel of 24th Judicial District Court; Christopher Ralston (L ’99), New Orleans Bar Association president; E. Pete Adams, executive director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association; state Rep. Walt Leger (L ’03), New Orleans City Council Member Susan Guidry; attorney Clifton Davis; and reentry program graduate Derrick Perique, who now works with nonprofit Rising Foundations to provide support with housing, employment access and small business incubation.
Professor Catherine Hancock, who was instrumental in arranging Djerassi's visit, said his presentations meant a lot to students who attended. "One student expressed the sentiments of many when he said that he never imagined that he would have the opportunity to chat so candidly with any judge during law school," Hancock said. "The students who met Judge Djerassi will always remember their remarkable experience."