More $ Problems for Orleans Indigent Defender Funding!!

Partially from our friends at the Lens.

This apparently never stops, and I won’t either because it makes me angry that we still don’t pay these attorneys enough or properly, and there is another 100 experienced attorneys needed but not hired. All our rights are endangered if the downtrodden arrested don’t get decent representation. It’s a hallmark symptom of a failing justice system.

Due to poor policing, worse assistant district attorney decisions and embarrassing private attorney behavior, all kinds of cases without merit are prosecuted, making a lot of angry criminal court judges and staff whose time is wasted.

I realize the New Orleans City Council has no money extra to allocate, and the state is exceedingly poor also, but when push comes to shove, the Indigent Defender offices need stable and proper state funding!

New New Orleans City Council Logo

New Orleans City Council Logo

Indigent defender programs are funded with state tax dollars, of varying sources around the nation with few exceptions but in New Orleans the City Council funds the program. That means bad things for an entire division of the Orleans Public Defenders who had 500 cases, as they were let go.

According to  court papers filed last week in the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal by William Quigley, a Loyola University law school teacher who also is a civil rights and constitutional attorney, upwards of 500 arrestees may have been incarcerated without ever getting assigned a lawyer! How could this happen again?

Follow the money trail!

Trail of Money

Trail of Money

In February 2012, the Orleans Public Defenders office had to shave $2.5 million from its $9.5 million budget because of a continued budget shortfall.  One Orleans Parish criminal court judge has resorted to refusing to proceed on cases where multiple defendants are involved. This has made the district attorney unhappy.

Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter put attorneys for the Orleans Parish Indigent Defenders office on the stand to find out just how many cases they were handling. One said her case load was 179. That’s beyond belief. No attorney can have that number of clients and give even a fraction of them proper counseling. The really big felony cases dominate an Indigent Defenders attorney’s docket. These are all life or death type cases that require a vigorous defense.

I’ve written extensively before about the 150 Rule that affects Diversion, Probation & Parole,  and Indigent Defender programs. It’s caretaker time, so all these programs suffer and suffer and suffer.

What is the difference if you get charged with say, a simple burglary with no record and 1. have a ID attorney and 2. you hire a private attorney?

2. You get off eventually and 1. you get 3-3-3. Three years hard time, three years parole, three years active probation. Nine years in the system vs. no time. What is this all about? Was there a case? Did the arrestee do the crime? Or not? Who’s the private attorney, who’s the A.D.A.? Who is the ID and what is their case load? Pretrial Services Program come into play? Evidence might be gathered very sloppily or incompletely by all involved parties.

Mysterious Money Trail

Mysterious Money Trail

The local Vera Institute of Justice has the wonderful Pretrial Services Program. They talked Guzman into giving space within his Orleans Parish Prison for an innovative arrestee ‘rating’ system which weighed various factors concerning a person’s reliability for showing up for court if let out without bail. Only non-violent arrestees are eligible for this program.

This program gets more people out of jail and may lead them to hire an attorney with the money saved on bail. Options for staying out of jail multiply when you are out of jail as opposed to being in the stir.

~ by neworleansmusicman on March 10, 2013.

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