SCHR calls for funding to address Louisiana public defender crisis

15th February, 2016
Southern Center for Human Rights

The right to a lawyer for poor people accused of crime is on life support in the 15th Judicial Circuit of Louisiana.  Plagued by devastating budget cuts, the Lafayette Public Defender Office that serves the 15th Judicial Circuit will effectively shut down in the next week if the State of Louisiana does not act to keep the office afloat.  The Lafayette Public Defender has already been forced to put potential clients on waiting lists due to budget shortfalls.  Absent emergency funding, the office will have to terminate over half of its attorneys, leaving eight attorneys to represent 8,000 people accused of felonies.  But the Circuit will lose much more than manpower.  Once known for its abysmal adherence to the Sixth Amendment, the Lafayette Public Defender Office, in partnership with Gideon’s Promise, has transformed into an office where zealous representation is the norm, not the exception.  Unless the State of Louisiana acts now, the Sixth Amendment will lose all meaning for poor people accused of crime in the 15th Judicial Circuit.  

 

The Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) formally calls on the Louisiana Public Defender Board to do everything in its power to safeguard the right to counsel for Lafayette’s poor.  Click here to read SCHR’s letter.