When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the levees protecting the city gave way in August 2005, an already struggling and weakened criminal justice system collapsed in spectacular fashion.

Damage within New Orleans extended far beyond the loss of physical infrastructure. The city’s population was depleted by more than half. For those who remained or returned within the first year, spirits were crushed, uncertainty abounded, and the hard work of restoration was riddled by anxiety, conflict, opportunism, and battles for precious resources.

Longtime judge Leon Cannizzaro Jr., appalled at the near-complete dysfunction of the local criminal justice system, entered and won the race for Orleans Parish district attorney (OPDA). In November 2008, because of the urgency and enormity of the task ahead, he assumed the unexpired term of his elected predecessor, Eddie Jordan, who had resigned under clouds of scandal in October 2007.



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