03/16 - Justice on Hold: Louisiana’s Public Defender Shortage | Louisiana Public Square | LPB
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Video Playlist:

Play Button  Full Program - Full Program
Play Button  From a Position of Public Safety - James Dixon, the State Public Defender, explains how some districts are prioritizing casework.
Play Button  Unstable Funding - Even natural disasters can throw off districts’ budgets, according to James Dixon, the State Public Defender.
Play Button  No Impact - James Dixon, the State Public Defender, says spending at the state level on things like capital cases wouldn’t help the districts if changed.
Play Button  Misunderstanding - Rep. Sherman Mack says many lawmakers don’t understand what public defenders do.
Play Button  Fair Allocation - Rep. Sherman Mack says he wants to make sure districts receive their fair share of funding in this time of tight budgets.
Play Button  What Happened at Bunny Friend Park - Law professor Pam Metzger says it takes a case going correctly to realize the inadequacies of the public defender system.
Play Button  Jail Time - Pam Metzger, a law professor at Tulane, says sentencing reform would relieve some of the load on defendants’ plates.
Play Button  Vigorous Defense - Law professor Pam Metzger outlines all of the aspects required for an adequate defense.
Play Button  Every Situation is Dire - Retired judge and district attorney Doug Moreau says causes don’t go to the Legislature to tell them they have enough funding.

03/16 - Justice on Hold: Louisiana’s Public Defender Shortage

How serious of a problem is the shortage of public defenders in Louisiana?

If you’re currently accused of a crime in Louisiana but can’t afford to hire an attorney, you may literally be “Defense-less.” Public Defenders Offices in twelve Louisiana districts say they don’t have the resources to keep up with the demand for court-appointed attorneys. Six districts have put suspects on waiting lists for counsel. The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana recently filed a class-action lawsuit against Orleans Parish and the Louisiana Public Defender Board claiming their clients’ lack of legal representation violates their Sixth Amendment rights.

So, how serious of a problem is the shortage of public defenders in Louisiana? How is the public defender system currently funded and does it need to be revamped? And what constitutional challenges does the state face due to the current backlog? Louisiana Public Square looks for answers on “Justice on Hold: Louisiana’s Public Defender Shortage” Wednesday, March 30 at 7 p.m. on LPB HD. (Recording Tuesday, March 29.)

Our Panelists:

We want to know your opinion! Leave your comments in the box below.

Why are there no links between private work release facilities. Isn’t better to take bribes to place unrepresented
indindividual for profit?
Yes,in my opinion the problem exist on. backs of unrepresented and poor individuals!
The slave mentality still exist

Posted by Luis Rodriguez  on  03/30  at  07:56 PM

I was a participant in this episode, and I have several concerns. The panelists noted only briefly the mass incarceration rate in the state. We incarcerate more people, per capita, than any other state, and indeed more than any country in the world. Some of the panelists noted the connection between our incarceration rate and our state’s high level of poverty, its failing education system, and the lack of economic opportunities which perpetuate these negatives. And no one dared raise the real topic of the appalling and hugely disparate impact of our “justice system” on African-Americans. Further, aside from two bright and interesting high school students, not a single member of the panel, nor of the participating audience was a person of color. To ignore the impact of the collapse of indigent defense in the state on our minority population is to serve yet another gross injustice.
Additionally, it strikes me as curious that anyone has any care whatsoever as to the views of the district attorneys on the budgets of the indigent defense entities. Clearly, the sole interest of the district attorneys (who stand to blame in large part for our high incarceration rate, as well as our very high exoneration rate) is to prosecute. Of course, Pete Adams will always say that the defense attorneys have too many resources. He, and his association want to be able to perform their ‘jobs’ with as little interference as possible. As a public defender, I have never once been asked, nor would I anticipate being asked, about the budgets of the district attorneys.

Posted by Jack Harrison  on  03/31  at  07:55 AM

Justice On Hold Very Good Program Very Informative Heartfelt Issues Your “Voice” was heard

Posted by Brenda Pratt  on  03/31  at  10:39 AM

I want to thank LPB for these programs.

While they are enlightening and an attempt to understand problems in our state, perhaps these forums are really focusing on symptoms. Another, new approach to this show would be to come up with a problem statement (last night was looking for solutions as do many of these town squares). What is the the problem with Louisiana could be a series. It would answer the question Why.

Posted by Leonard Joseph  on  03/31  at  10:52 AM

I write to say I enjoyed the episode immensely, as I currently find myself in the position of being a person in poverty who is seeking an indigent defender to confront false charges laid against me by Gretna police, in a court where there is NO RECORD of events that take place, where I was arraigned by phone, where I cannot retrieve my property, seized by search warrant, and said property, a video camera, contains exculpatory evidence.
The current state of La. Public Defenders is indeed a crisis, as after more than twenty appearances in court to face these charges, I am in a position of having to prove my innocence, as no evidence can exist of my guilt, I have seen that I am far from being the only such person to be falsely charged.
My recommendation for funding the board is simple, a $20 tax statewide collected on property tax, scaled upward to $50 for high income households, sent to the state, and protected from any other use by the legislature, to be disbursed to districts as needed. I made approximately $6000 last year mowing lawns and doing what odd jobs I could find, and at that rate, the $40 enrollment fee is a steep price. Indigence could easily be determined by using the federal poverty guidelines.
Gretna magistrate Oland Toups took no steps to determine my indigence, a factor mentioned in your episode. 
Please have a follow-up program on this subject highlighting people who have been falsely accused and exonerated, as your story should have contained at least partly the human side of the equation where the innocent suffer for the mistakes and perjuries of policeman and courts where there is no hope of justice in the face of corruption.
It was heartening to hear Ms. Graham comment that lawyers are taking pay cuts to represent the poor. This seems to me to be far from the standard of many current attorneys, as courts seem geared to paydays rather than in the interests of justice or fairness, as was noted when I attended court and was told by a Gretna court policeman to, “Take out that fat wallet”, as I was screened by the metal detector. (I had no wallet, or money to fatten one)
How many people, innocent of the charges filed, now languish in Louisiana jails and prisons? How many police will file false charges against the innocent to feed municipal coffers? How many D.A.s will conceal exculpatory evidence? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
The poor are the most convenient target for such, and their best hope is a public defender who not only knows the machinations of court systems, but who also really cares about the interests of justice.
“He who would be first among you, must be servant of all.”
Apathy is the enemy.
Thank you again for your program, and please do a follow up.

Case # C-61456-14
City of Gretna vs. Kenneth Wilson

Posted by Kenny Wilson  on  03/31  at  11:25 AM

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments. To Mr. Wilson and Mr. Harrison - We did intend to have a personal story of an indigent defendant who ended up in jail for six months waiting for trial before his case was dismissed. We were working with a public defender in Baton Rouge but were unable to coordinate the interview with the person in time for our production. We do still plan to do a profile piece in the near future on someone who is facing or has faced challenges due to the state’s public defender shortage as part of LPB’s work with the “Chasing the Dream” Initiative - http://chasingthedreamproject.org/about/ We’ll keep our viewers posted via LPB’s Facebook page.

Posted by Louisiana Public Square  on  03/31  at  02:47 PM
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