Children, Mistakes and OPP

Children, Mistakes and OPP: Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton on the all too common practice of kids in adult jail:

Transferring our children to Orleans Parish Prison has become far too commonplace. While years of research prove housing youth in adult facilities is both detrimental to their safety and psychological development, New Orleans lags behind. I began my legal career 16 years ago representing children in brutal facilities. I saw first-hand the physical and emotional scars created by such conditions.

In the 2010 Graham vs. Florida ruling, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy stated, "Juveniles are more capable of change than are adults, and their actions are less likely to be evidence of irretrievably depraved character than are the actions of adults... It would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed."


Graduates of New Municipal Court Diversion Program Get Second Chance For a Better Future

On Friday, August 8th, 2014, Municipal Court's new diversion program—CrossRoads Diversion—celebrated the graduation of its first five participants. Instituted June 2014, CrossRoads Diversion is a pilot diversionary program in Orleans Parish Municipal Court intended to provide an alternative to incarceration and criminal adjudication for those charged with misdemeanor sex worker or sex worker-related offenses. CrossRoads Diversion links participants to social services to empower and enable them to make substantive and healthy life choices. The first class of five completed their sessions and their charges will be dismissed. CrossRoads Diversion currently has 33 participants in the program.


Sara Jones Named Inaugural Ben Levick Sullivan Investigator Fellow

OPD is proud to announce the inaugural Ben Levick Sullivan Investigator Fellow, Sara Jones. After a nationwide search and hundreds of applicants, Sara was overwhelming chosen to establish the fellowship and further OPD's mission to give every client zealous, client centered representation.

Sara spent the last two years as a client services coordinator and AmeriCorps volunteer for the St. Bernard Project (SBP). She has worked with care and dedication with numerous low income and vulnerable populations throughout the New Orleans area. While at SBP, Sara helped clients navigate the system to return to their homes and connected clients to counseling and substance abuse programs. Recognizing the need for high quality legal representation and advocacy, Sara is eager to contribute to OPD's mission and Ben's legacy as the first Ben Levick Sullivan fellow.


Gideon Is Rising

from Chief Defender Derwyn Bunton:

I want to share with everyone the optimism I have for the future of public defense and the Orleans Public Defenders Office (OPD). I am excited because all across the country we as public defenders are redefining ourselves, reasserting ourselves and living up to ourselves. More than 50 years ago, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the United States Supreme Court stated we are necessary for fairness and justice in our criminal courts, and we are now breathing in what that means. Sometimes forsaken and minimized, I believe today – truthfully – Gideon is rising.

I say rising because what is happening now with Gideon is not new. It is not some new interpretation of the law or change in statute. We were told 50 years ago how important our job is, what difference we are supposed to make, and for whatever reason public defenders did not believe it or maybe just over time we forgot. We buried our obligation, our duty and our challenge. Our U.S. Supreme court told us we are fundamental to the existence of justice, and I believe OPD is beginning to live up to the promise and duty of the right to not just counsel, but justice.


OPD Represents at Mayor’s Community Budget Meeting


"I don't think this is a zero sum game. I think the public defender’s office saves the city money."  He says the office gets people into drug treatment and job training rather than letting them sit in jail at the city's expense.

Orleans Public Defenders' Nathan Fennell speaking up for public defense funding at Mayor Landrieu's District A Community Budget Meeting.

See The Lens’ transcripts from reporter Charles Maldonado’s Live Blog here

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