LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - As 2021 gets underway, newly elected judges take office, while others retire after many years on the bench.
One leaving after more than 20 years on the bench in family court in Calcasieu Parish is Judge Lilynn Cutrer.
Family and juvenile court is closed to the public to help protect those who are not yet adults. So, Judge Lilynn Cutrer’s work on the bench is mostly seen only by those involved in the cases. She says she’s seen progress over her years on the bench.
“We started teen court, a group that works with teens. I started an intensive girls’ group that works closely with girls who have been victims of abuse. The court’s been recognized as a model court on a national level in how we handle child abuse and neglect cases.” She says they’ve also changed to reduce red tape for families in court.
“When a family appears in our court whether they’re on the juvenile side or an adoption or a divorce or custody, that they’ll always have the same judge so they’re not having to rehash everything and undergo evaluations or services in different arenas. Everything’s done at one time in a more efficient and effective way.” Cutrer has seen illegal drug use result in many cases that come to court.
“We’ve had more children in foster care for that reason. We see the results of that in court every day. Drug abuse is a serious issue in our parish.”
Also, over her 21 years on the bench she’s seen increasing numbers of juveniles with firearms.
“More likely to involve guns in their crimes. As opposed to when I started 21 years ago, by far. We didn’t see a lot of gun use back then. We are seeing a lot more of that with juveniles now.”
As a family court judge she knows the importance of parental involvement in children’s lives.
“Teachers are already involved in school, but we’re the back end of it. So, I think the front end is really in the home. So, I think the more involved parents can be aware of what their children are doing, who they’re hanging with, make decisions and be a parent, not a friend or focused on something else, but focused on being good parents.”
Cutrer has been recognized many times for service to families and youth and she cherishes those joyful and fulfilling parts of the job. Yet she says volume of cases remains an issue.
‘In my years, I’ve handled close to 20,000 family law cases, about 8,000 juvenile cases and several hundred adoptions. So, volume is still a real issue.”
Cutrer’s decision to run so many years ago was perhaps in her DNA, as her grandfather was a judge and her grandmother the registrar of voters. But after 21 years she is ready to pass the reins.
Cutrer is succeeded by Judge-Elect Cynthia Clay Guillory who was elected to the newly created family court division.
Cutrer says she expects to accept appointments to fill in as judge where needed.