Traffic Court Still Owes Public Defenders

Re: "Report slams judges for use of cars," A-1, Nov. 2. It is not up to us to say whether the decision of New Orleans Traffic Court judges to pay for personal use of city vehicles from the Judicial Expense Fund was illegal or just poor judgment, but we do know this: The court owes the Orleans Public Defenders office between $2.5 million and $6.7 million that is critical to the public safety of the New Orleans community.

Every public dollar counts. Last week, the mayor recommended a 33 percent cut to the city's appropriation to the defenders office, suggesting that its crisis was a "state problem." But funding public defense, as devised by the Louisiana Legislature, is a shared responsibility between state and local sources. The inspector general investigation shows that Traffic Court elected to pay for personal perks before remitting funds to the office, as the law requires. Traffic Court now says there is no money left. That's not the state's problem.

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