This week, Orleans Parish was forced to downsize its staff of public defenders at Criminal District Court, according to John Simerman of The Times-Picayune:
A bloodletting this week at the Orleans Parish public defender’s office will mean a slowdown at Criminal District Court and leave many defendants on a waiting list for a free lawyer, Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton said Thursday. Bunton said he was forced to lay off 27 employees, including 21 lawyers – nearly a third of the public defenders on his staff – in the latest move to trim a deep shortfall in the office’s $9.5 million budget… The cuts are expected to save just more than $1 million.[read more]
In the United States, the accused in criminal cases have the legal right to a public defender if they are unable to afford a private attorney. As the article goes on to explain, 80% of criminal defendants in New Orleans utilize public defenders.
This is very bad news for those not fortunate enough to be able to afford an attorney. It also has the domino effect of clogging the entire justice system with the reallocation of resources. Please take the time to read the article, because this is a serious issue that affects us all.