- Published on 13 August 2015
More than 80% of defendants in New Orleans can’t afford a lawyer, and so a public defender represents them, their only ally in a long journey toward freedom or imprisonment. Yet while the office handles most cases that pass through the courthouses, it remains “the stepchild of the criminal justice system” in New Orleans, said Anthony Radosti, vice president of the city’s Metropolitan Crime Commission. “And it’s always been considered the stepchild.”
Before Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans didn’t even have a full-time public defender’s office. As the city picked up the pieces the storm left behind, a group of dedicated reformers set about ensuring that the indigent would have full-time legal representation.
“The most substantial impact and consequence of Katrina,” criminal court judge Arthur Hunter told BuzzFeed News, was the creation, for the first time, of a full-time public defender’s office in New Orleans.