- Thursday, 14 November 2013
Funding for public defense in New Orleans (and throughout Louisiana) is inadequate, unreliable and unpredictable. And I am not the only one who thinks so.
In a 2006 report titled "An Assessment of the Immediate and Longer-Term Needs of the New Orleans Public Defender System," the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance wrote, "It is imperative that a stable and adequate funding source be established for the [Orleans Public Defender's Office.] Without that commitment, it will remain impossible to provide defendants with the representation to which they are constitutionally entitled." In a follow-up report in 2010, the bureau wrote, "The OPD's funding must be stable, dependable and adequate. ... No one seems to know how much to expect from any source during the current year or in the future."
In 2012, an independent evaluation commissioned by the Louisiana Public Defender Board said this: "Simply put, OPD is not and has never been on a stable revenue footing. Louisiana, unique to all other states, funds its indigent defense system primarily through local traffic tickets and other local fees and costs."
Fines, fees and court costs are a part of criminal justice systems around the country, but Louisiana public defenders depend and rely on such costs to a dangerous degree. On average, two-thirds of public defender operating budgets are comprised of fines, fees and costs. Nationally, such revenues account for zero-to-10 percent of funding. While our entire criminal justice system relies heavily on fines, fees and costs, public defense is the most glaring example of how flawed this funding structure really is.
Read more in The Lens...
- Wednesday, 16 October 2013
Mayor Landrieu once again proved his commitment to a fair and balanced criminal justice system today with the continued funding of the Orleans Public Defenders (OPD) in his 2014 budget. While the general appropriation is a near $150,000 decrease, the additional $232,000 appropriation for defense in racketeering cases will hopefully help stave off further private bar pro bono representation needs for the mayor's Group Violence Reduction Strategy (GVRS). OPD's $940,000 appropriation remains significantly less than the NOPD, the Sheriff and the District Attorney.
"The mayor's continued support for OPD and public defense in New Orleans is another step toward a fair and just criminal justice system, and the additional GVRS appropriation is certainly a big part of that," said Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton. "However, the persistent resource disparity within the criminal justice system threatens an efficient, reliable court system and hinders our ability to keep up with the growing and complex demands our criminal justice system. Until OPD secures stable, reliable and adequate funding, we remain vulnerable to service restrictions."
OPD currently represents more than 80% of defendants in Criminal, Municipal and Traffic court. The implementation of sweeping multi-defendant indictments has brought court proceedings to a standstill as judges work to secure pro bono representation due to OPD's inadequate resources. Inconsistent and inadequate funding have always challenged OPD's operations, making the city's appropriation especially crucial to maintain efficient and effective representation in the face of increasing caseloads. When OPD cannot operate at full capacity, the entire criminal justice system falters, causing delays in justice for victims, defendants and the public.
Read More in our Press Release
- Thursday, 10 October 2013
New Orleans, LA – The Orleans Public Defenders (OPD) are pleased to announce our own Nzinga Hill is the recipient of the 2013 National Legal Aid and Defender Association's (NLADA) Reginald Heber Smith Award. Given since the early 1960s, Hill is one of just two honorees nationwide to receive the "Reggie" award recognizing the dedication and outstanding achievements of civil or indigent defense attorneys. Hill and the other 2013 NLADA national awards winners will be recognized at the Annual Conference November 8 in Los Angeles.
Hill is the supervising attorney of OPD's Child in Need of Care (CINC) unit, advocating tirelessly in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court to reunite families. Her representation is unparalleled and her dedication to improve representation for parents in CINC cases is determined.
Read more in our Press Release.