OPD is Now on YouTube

Check out our first video. Some of our amazing staff talks about why they do what they do, why they fight each day and why public defense is so important. 

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I’m a public defender. It’s impossible for me to do a good job representing my clients.

OPD Staff Attorney Tina Peng talks about the realities and struggles of a continued budget crisis.

wapo logoThe Orleans Public Defenders are facing a million-dollar deficit as a result of statewide budget cuts. For a small office like ours, that’s devastating. To avoid layoffs, the entire staff will see the equivalent of four unpaid weeks per year in furloughs, increased caseloads and a hiring freeze — and the submission to the Louisiana Public Defender Board of a plan to cut services to the people of New Orleans. We are already stretched thin: Our office represents 85 percent of the people charged with crimes in Orleans Parish but has an annual budget about a third the size of the district attorney’s. The American Bar Association recommends that public defenders not work on more than 150 felony cases a year. In 2014, I handled double that.

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Derwyn Bunton: Public Defense Reform Shows Both the Challenge and the Possibility of Post-Katrina New Orleans

huffington post logoIn the second season of the HBO series True Detective, Frank Semyon (played by Vince Vaughn), tells a young boy who recently lost his father, "Sometimes a thing happens, splits your life. There's a before and after." For us New Orleanians, that "thing [that] happens" was Hurricane Katrina.

Before Katrina, justice was elusive and unwelcome -- flushed out of the New Orleans criminal justice system long before Hurricane Katrina flooded the courthouse and the jail in 2005. Orleans Parish Prison was packed with more than 6,000 people the day Katrina landed and most had little to no representation in the absence of an organized and institutionally competent public defender office.

Read more at Huffington Post... 

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Indefensible: The Story of New Orleans' Public Defenders

longform original 461 1439412783 10More 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.

Read more at BuzzFeed News... 

Why Public Defense Funding Matters on the Local Level

OPD is facing a $1 million shortfall. The current budget crisis is brought about in part from underfunding and budget cuts by the state and in part from underfunding by the city in the form disparity with other criminal justice agents and the reliance on fines and fees.

But the budget crisis is brought about entirely as a result of an unstable, unreliable and inadequate user-pay regime of funding that makes it impossible to predict from year to year when the next extreme budget shortfall will occur. In the absence of sustainable funding by both the city and the state, we will continue to have a budget crisis every few years when funding by either entity inevitably falls short; the result of which are ultimately unhealthy for New Orleans' criminal justice system.

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    Tel: (504) 821-8101
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