IamA New Orleans Public Defenders and a reporter covering the public defense crisis. AMA!
My short bio: I’m Jed Lipinski, a reporter for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune in New Orleans.
I recently wrote a profile of Lauren Anderson, a staff attorney for the Orleans Public Defender’s office. Lauren is one of 42 public defenders left in New Orleans, where state budget cuts and an unstable local funding system have caused the office to turn down certain felony cases in which defendants face lengthy sentences.
As a result, around 110 indigent people accused of crimes in New Orleans have had their cases wait-listed or refused. More than 60 of them are now sitting in jail waiting for someone to appoint them a lawyer.
Claiming this violates indigent defendants Sixth Amendment rights, the ACLU sued the Orleans Public Defender in January. Because the office cannot afford to represent itself in the suit, they’ve recruited a local attorney to represent them for free.
My colleagues at NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune have covered the public defender crisis thoroughly over the last few months. In a recent development, lawmakers have proposed funding the office by taking money from death penalty appeals. And on Friday, a New Orleans judge stopped the prosecutions of seven indigent men who have languished for months without legal representation and ordered their release, though their charges have not been dismissed. You can find a list of recent stories here.
Chief defender Derwyn Bunton and Lauren Anderson will join me in answering questions you may have on the issue until 4:45 p.m. Friday. Thanks for having us.
UPDATE 5:00 pm: We're signing off for now but will try to address any other questions on Monday, April 11. Thanks for participating.