Nationally Prominent Civil Rights Lawyer Alec Karakatsanis Waging Campaign To Keep Landrum Out As U.S. Attorney

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Washington. D.C. based civil rights lawyer and social justice advocate, Alec Karakatsanis, has taken a special interest in denouncing the candidacy of former judge and district attorney candidate Keva Landrum whom President Joe Biden is preparing to nominate as the next U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. 

Co-founder of Equal Justice Under Law, Karakatsanis is also founder and executive Director of Civil Rights Corps, a Washington D.C. impact litigation non-profit.  A graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School, he is well-known for his efforts to end the American monetary bail system, including in Louisiana.  

In a lengthy series of tweets on September 20, Karakatsanis warned his million plus followers about Landrum’s “history of illegal behavior and violent crimes.” Karakatsanis said Landrum’s pattern of behavior would “shock” readers “to the core.” Karakatsanis cited a story posted by Big Easy Magazine on October 24, 2020 that thoroughly investigated Landrum’s prosecutorial and judicial record. Almost 4,000 of his followers have “liked” the initial thread and about 2,500 have retweeted it.

“A few years ago, we uncovered that Judge Landrum was running a modern day debtors’ prison. The things I saw during the investigation have haunted me ever since. The story of corruption is hard to believe,” he wrote. Karakatsanis claimed that Landrum and other judges were jailing very poor people in New Orleans if they couldn’t pay their debts. The judges created a “Collections Department” inside the court to illegally collect debt. “When our clients couldn’t pay, they were caged in unbearable conditions,” Karakatsanis explained. 

He also alleged that Landrum and other judges took a cut of the profits to run their courts, creating an unconstitutional financial conflict of interest that destroyed whatever “neutrality” they were supposed to have as judges. “The judges even used some of these profits they ‘extorted’ from the poorest people in New Orleans (disproportionately Black) on benefits for themselves and their spouses. Even the District Attorney wrote a letter asking the State Attorney General to prosecute the judges,” said Karakatsanis.  

He believes this system violated many laws including that most basic principle – that the U.S. Constitution forbids a judge from putting a human being in a cage solely because the person cannot make a cash payment. “And yet it happened every day for years. It’s how Landrum and others did business.”

Karakatsanis is convinced that Judge Landrum and other judges devastated thousands of lives in New Orleans, overwhelmingly Black and indigent people, and then fought the Civil Rights Corps in court. “What does this mean? Mothers and fathers separated from their families. People are forced to sell blood plasma to pay their debts. Debtors brutalized in filthy jail cells without sunlight, fresh air, exercise and medical care. The violations of constitutional rights were so egregious that the federal court in New Orleans issued a judgement against Judge Landrum and other judges declaring that they were violating the basic 14th Amendment rights of some of the poorest people in New Orleans,” he said.

Landrum appealed to “try to preserve her financial conflict of interest” and lost in federal appeals court. Karakatsanis claims this case is just one example of Landrum’s misdeeds. He also points to a reversed conviction by the U.S. Supreme Court because Landrum allegedly helped discriminate against Black jurors.   

“Few people have amassed as long and as monstrous a record of fighting to keep innocent people in prison as Judge Landrum,” Karakatsanis said. He  also referenced the case against teenager Kia Steward who was imprisoned in horrific conditions for 10 years before being exonerated and the case against Robert Jones in which it is believed that Landrum ignored evidence that would have proved his innocence. 

Karakatsanis says stories like this are important because they show how powerful people reward people willing to do monstrous things for them. “If we don’t make noise, the cycle of corruption will continue. To my knowledge, Biden has never publicly been asked about this corrupt nomination.” Karakatsanis is speaking out now because he says it appears that Landrum’s background check hasn’t been completed and that key members of the Senate who confirm nominees can be educated about her “horrific history of criminality and injustice.” 

He purports that Landrum would be the first U.S. Attorney ever to serve after a court judgement decided that they violated federal constitutional rights, and that “this is the person that elite politicians advising Biden want to appoint to enforce the law. People must know about it.”  

The U.S. Senate must confirm Landrum’s nomination for U.S. Attorney. If selected, she would oversee an office that prosecutes federal cases in 13 parishes in southeast Louisiana. Landrum would fill the vacancy created by the February 28 resignation of Peter Strasser, who had been appointed by President Donald Trump.  

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