Clerk of First City Court Austin Badon Is All About Efficiency

The Honorable Austin Badon has served as Clerk of First City Court for almost three years. During that time he has revamped, remodeled and modernized the office. Badon recently spoke with Big Easy Magazine about the important role the clerk’s office plays in the city’s court system.

BE: You were born in New Orleans?

AB: Yes, I was born in the 7th Ward but we moved to New Orleans East when I was in the fifth grade. I attended Martinez Nursery School, Epiphany Elementary School and I’m a proud graduate of St. Augustine High School. My mother Brenda was a public school teacher and my father Austin Sr. was an aerospace contractor. They are both retired now of course.

BE: What values did your parents teach you?  

AB:  My mother instilled in me a work ethic I will always remember. She taught me not to count on anyone else – that I should learn how to cook, wash my clothes and take care of my bills. My dad spent quality time with me. He introduced me to baseball, fishing, and the great outdoors. We had long talks; lots of great dialogue. Dad has always been a good listener. He knew to let the child elaborate and fill in when necessary.

BE: Do you use the same technique with your son Ayden?

AB: I really enjoy engaging with my ten-year old, Ayden, who is very inquisitive. I’m always interested in what he’s thinking and what’s on his mind. We talk about local, national and international news. Because I am a student of World War II, Ayden has learned about military aircraft, key leaders in the war and important battles that we fought.

We also talk about how people live in other countries. I want him to know how good he has it here in America. It’s not perfect, but I am preparing him to compete globally. The world is interconnected.

BE: What about your college years and early work experiences?

AB: I studied political science and sociology at the University of New Orleans and completed a masters in Human Resources Development at Troy State University. After moving back to New Orleans, I became a district executive for the Boy Scouts of America and then worked at Nunez Community College and Southern University at New Orleans as director of community service.  

At both colleges I partnered with non-profit organizations to create unpaid internships for students. Often times the students would get hired for permanent positions. I especially enjoyed the partnership created with the Walt Disney Company where many students gained valuable employment skills and made life-long friends. Working at Disney was a good environment and conducive to growth and learning.

BE: You served 12 years as a state representative representing District 100?

AB: Yes. I was elected in 2003 and served three four-year terms until I was term-limited in 2012. During those years I was privileged to serve as chair of the Education Committee, vice chair of the Transportation Committee and chairman of the Local and Municipal Committee. 

BE: What were you able to accomplish?

AB: My leadership on the Education Committee stopped the proposed merger of UNO and SUNO.  If the merger had gone through, it would have eliminated SUNO’s autonomy. SUNO continues to offer an important niche for students who live in New Orleans. I was thrilled to be able to stop that merger. 

My service to the Transportation Committee centered on increasing recognition of the hazards of driving while using a hand-held device such as a cell-phone. Laws were passed which forbid texting in school zones and on petro-chemical properties. Unfortunately opponents of a total ban on driving while using a hand-held device still control the dialogue. 

Much of New Orleans-centered legislation is heard by local and municipal [courts]. I was proud to be able to make a difference to ensure needed bills passed out of committee smoothly.

BE: What is your greatest accomplishment outside the halls of the legislature?

AB: Seven years ago this week I initiated and coordinated an effort to find a missing Jefferson Parish teacher, Terrilyn Monette, who unfortunately drowned in Bayou St. John on her way home. When Terrilyn and her car went missing, I coordinated with all the local agencies including Wildlife and Fisheries, the State Police and the Harbor Police. Drivers identified and brought up 24 cars in the bayou before we found Terrilyn in the 25th car. I am still in touch with her family. Finding Terrilyn was my greatest accomplishment not only in the Legislature but in life. 

BE: What does the Office of the Clerk of First City Court actually do?

AB: First City Court was created for evictions and small claims under $5,000 as well as civil cases $25,000 or less and traffic camera appeals. Our office handles all the necessary paperwork for filing cases to be heard by the court and keeps records of every proceeding. 

BE: How have your office operations changed since you have become clerk?

AB: We’ve undergone a complete 100% transformation. Employees now works task specific, proficient in doing what they do. We have even created two support specialists who have been cross-trained to handle all the offices’ functions and can seamlessly substitute for any employee anytime.  

To improve efficiency, we’ve also increased the number of staff and issued two pay raises. Staff have different colored Polo style shirts they wear four days a week which creates a safe, much more uniform and identifiable environment.                    

Another cost-effective change is that we now keep all files onsite in an unused space in the building. We used to rent warehouse space on the West Bank but we found that files occasionally got lost and were not available when the judges needed them. We’ve saving the taxpayers money by decreasing the costs of storing documents. 

We also entered into an agreement with the state through which they allow us to dispose of files where the cases have been closed for 10 years, an additional cost savings to taxpayers. Finally, we have reduced the costs of making copies of court documents by 50% to $1.00 per page. This brings our fee in line with what Clerk of Civil District Court Chelsey Richard Napoleon charges.  

BE: How has your physical space changed?

AB: The clerk’s offices have also been totally renovated to become more OSHA compliant, energy efficient, safer for employees and more efficient for customers. One customer gave us a great compliment when he said that we had taken a caterpillar and made it into a butterfly. 

BE: In general, how is business?

We usually handle more than 10,000 cases annually. Filings were off in 2020 of course, but are picking back up.  

BE: There has been a moratorium on evictions. When will that end? 

AB: At the moment, the moratorium is scheduled to end midnight June 30th. Only evictions for non-payment of rent were stopped. Other evictions for illegal activity, for example, have proceeded.

BE: What about e-filing?

AB: We plan to start a new e-filing subscription service by the end of 2021, if not earlier. We are buying a product off the shelf rather than developing one ourselves to save the costs of having programmers and IT professionals on staff.  

The new e-filing system will be a huge generator of funds for the court and will increase user efficiency. Customers who subscribe to the service will also be able to print documents in their offices with the cost per page charged against their accounts. We haven’t established an annual subscription fee but want it to be affordable. 

I am so proud of my fantastic staff. They do an extraordinarily great job. After all, we’re in the customer service business and we deliver service with a smile.   

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